If we aren’t tracking flexible working… what’s the point?

In the last few years, flexible working has gone from something of a company secret to a modern-day buzzword. 

Today, we’re in an awkward phase where we know that nine out of 10 employees want flexible working.

It’s becoming a make-or-break essential for people when looking for a new job – or for existing employees who are jumping ship to more flexible roles.

And yet, in many companies, we’re starting to see a rollback to the office, with inflexible nominated office days creeping in.

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At Pregnant Then Screwed, we spoke to 260 HR managers, the very people who sit at the coalface of writing the policies that underpin flexible working in the workplace.

Of these, 42% of HR managers told us they aren’t currently tracking the success of the flexible/hybrid working policies in their workplace.

In fact, just 40% of HR managers told us that they have had any training for supporting teams in a hybrid working world. 

This finger-in-the-air approach might be working just fine, or it might not.

The issue here is, without tracking it, everyone is in the dark. Without any data, flexible working can feel like a nice to have – or to not have – and therein lies the problem. 

Flexible working is a way of working, not an office perk, and it’s not a catch-all term for working from home; it is so much more than this.

It’s a way to let people into the workplace who otherwise would not be able to make working work.

Flexible working is about adjusting the working environment or hours to enable people to work around their personal constraints and preferences, and it is absolutely vital for shifting the needle on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 

Today, we have more roles available than ever before, and yet 1.7 million women are currently not able to access work due to childcare barriers, and 870,000 mothers would work more hours if they could make it work.

Mothers need flexible working. Today, women are twice as likely to work flexibly than men are, and if women can work flexibly, then they are twice as likely to remain in the workforce post-pregnancy.

Analysis from the Trades Union Congress found that a lack of good flexible working opportunities, coupled with the unequal division of caring responsibilities, can force women into working arrangements that result in loss of pay and poorer working conditions.

Put simply, a lack of good flexible work can be detrimental to women's careers, especially mothers.

The inclusion gap runs deeper than mothers, however, as there are 1.3 million people, including carers and people with disabilities, who could stand to benefit from increased flexibility in the workplace.

Research has found that a majority (85%) of disabled workers in the UK are more productive when they work from home, and a further 80% of disabled workers deem flexible working as essential when looking for a new job.

Then, there is neurodiversity, which requires adaptability and flexibility in the workplace, and health conditions too. The list is endless. 

If we aren’t looking at the highs and lows of flexible working, what is working and what isn’t, then we are missing the point.

Flexible working has the potential now more than ever before to harness a truly inclusive workforce, to close gaps and to drive up equality. But if we aren’t tracking it, how will we stop non-inclusive behaviours from slowly creeping back in? 

Celia Venables is PR consultant at Pregnant Then Screwed