The myths about flexible working

by ParentalChoice
in Flexible working
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Today we’re looking at debunking the myths about flexible working. We’ve been joined by Fiona Severs from Lexington Grey.

Fiona Severs from Lexington Grey - Parental Choice Ltd

Almost every professional services firm struggles with the question of how to retain its talent, recognising that decreasing attrition rates will increase employees’ morale and productivity.  More and more, employers of choice are realising that flexible work policies are key to long-term retention of staff.

Lexington Gray is passionate about flexible work and operates both a flexible work consultancy and a legal recruitment business that specialises in finding flexible or part-time work for lawyers.  We’ve found that a number of myths exist around the concept of flexible working and the benefits or issues it brings with it.  Perhaps some of the following may sound familiar:

Myth 1: ‘Flexible working is for female staff’

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that flexible working practices are only appealing to women, but it’s a perception that is categorically not the case in reality. Research conducted in 2010 by PwC found flexible working to be the single most highly valued benefit for 47% of employees – as compared to pay and bonus policies, which came second and harvested just 19% of votes – and this during a worldwide recession.

Consider two more statistics: 40% of fathers now say they spend too little time with their children; and two-thirds of fathers see flexible work as an important benefit when looking for a new job. It’s no coincidence that more than one in three candidates registered with Lexington Gray are male.

Myth 2: ‘If it’s that important, my employees will come and talk to me about flexible working’

Our experience mirrors the findings of the Equality & Diversity Committee and suggests that in firms without an established flexible working policy, female employees will approach their employer to discuss the possibilities available. In contrast, male staff will simply look elsewhere, preferring to enter the job market rather than ask their current firm to accommodate their needs.

 Myth 3: ‘Part-time employees are less committed to their work’

For the majority of professional workers, the desire for work/life balance is not a plea for reduced working hours or indicative of a lack of commitment to their careers.  Most welcome challenging work and are simply looking for better ways to balance excellent client service with control over other aspects of their working lives – like where, when and how they work.  Employers that operate effective Flexible Work Policies acknowledge increased motivation and loyalty from staff making use of them.

Myth 4:  A full-time workforce offers a greater return on time and investment

The Law Society estimates that it costs law firms £125,000 each and every time a senior lawyer chooses to leave their firm.  When Deloitte tackled their resourcing issues in the 1990s, attrition rates went from 25% to 18% – saving the business $250 million in hiring and training costs.  Lower staff turnover enabled Deloitte to grow faster than any other large professional services firm at that time, despite an intensifying war for talent.

 Myth 5: Employees working flexibly are less productive

A survey of 16,000 businesses by Regus in January 2012 revealed that global businesses overwhelmingly see increased productivity and greater revenue generation as being directly linked to flexible working practices.

Myth 6: Clients won’t like it

 Many clients, including banks and multinationals, are themselves allowing greater flexibility for staff and would find it odd if professional services firms did not allow flexible working.  In fact Helen Mahy, General Counsel from National Grid spoke eloquently at the launch of the Law Society’s Flexible Work Protocol in December 2011 about how she includes questions regarding flexible work and diversity when deciding which law firms to appoint to her panel of advisers.

A recent Law Society report identified a lack of flexible work structures together with an absence of recruitment agencies willing to place candidates into part-time or flexible roles as the two biggest barriers to women’s careers in the law.  Lexington Gray aims to tackle both of these barriers head on.

Whether you’re a professional services firm or corporate looking to establish or enhance your flexible work policy or an individual putting together a flexible work proposal we can help.

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