Karen Mattison MBE, Joint CEO of Timewise, on the new research that’s busting the mum-myth once and for all.
Here’s a question for all you parents out there. What groups of people work flexibly, or want to? If you’re thinking ‘Mostly mums, some dads, a few people with elderly parents’, I won’t be too surprised; there’s certainly a perception out there that it’s mainly women, and particularly parents, who want and need to work flexibly.
But through my work at Timewise, a social consultancy that’s championing flexible working in all its shapes and forms, I’ve long been convinced that flexibility isn’t just a female issue – and I wanted to prove it. So I commissioned a research study to discover what flexible working actually looks like in 2017: who wants it, for what reasons, and how much it matters to them.
Flexible working is for everyone
And, as our report into the study shows, the answer is simple: most people, whether they’re working or not, would prefer to work flexibly. The headline numbers don’t leave any room for doubt: 87% of full time employees either work flexibly, or say they want to; and of the people who aren’t currently working but wish they were, 93% would prefer to work either part-time or flexibly in some way.
Specifically, if we’re looking at gender, the gap between what men and women want is smaller than many people would have expected. 84% of male full-timers either work flexibly already or wish they could, compared with 91% of full-time women.
Yes, ok, but they’re mostly parents right? Wrong. The research also showed that the demand for flexible working cuts across full-time workers of all generations, with 92% of millennials, 88% of Generation X and even 72% of the baby boomers either working flexibly or wanting to. And their reasons were wide-ranging, with childcare coming in a lowly fifth on the list.
So, 84% of men? 92% of younger workers? That’s massive – and it puts the mum myth to bed once and for all. So now the truth is out there, what are we going to do with it?
Employers need to change to meet the demand
If we’re going to fix the gap between flexible job supply and demand, the onus has to be on employers to change both their hiring and job design practices. Because, despite this unprecedented demand for flexible jobs, only 1 in 10 roles are currently advertised as being flexible at the point of hire. So the 84% of full-time men, 91% of full-time women and 93% of non-workers who want a flexible role really don’t have many options.
And to help employers along the way, employees need to play their part too. Anyone who has been working for the same employer for 26 weeks or more now has the right to ask for flexible working, regardless of whether they are parents or not. So if you want to work flexibly, ask. Building a strong business case would certainly help, and you’ll find advice on how to ask on our website.
We’ll only really have cracked the flexible working issue when the number of available jobs matches the number of people who want them. We know what the demand is; now let’s see the supply rise up to meet it.
Thanks to Karen Mattison, Joint CEO of Timewise