04 Jul 2019

Picture this: Your office chair is your sofa. Your commute is down the hall. And you only ever need to make one brew at a time. That’s the stuff of dreams, right? Not necessarily, flexible working is more common than you might think.


According to research by Vistage, a CEO mentoring organisation, 59% of businesses already offer flexible working and 36% are considering it.


It seems that more businesses are listening to their employees. A recent survey by Wildgoose events company revealed that 14% of those questioned are considering changing jobs to work for a company that offered flexible working. 43% of employees who currently do not have access to flexible working agree that it would enable them to better manage their mental health.


Which sectors have got flexible working nailed?


Some companies are great when it comes to offering flexible working. Others need to catch up.


As Lara Fisher-Jones, a senior consultant at Stopgap explains: “Generally speaking, the market research agencies I work with are more geared up to offering flexible working than client-side organisations.


“What is offered depends on the agency – anything from working remotely the full five days a week to the option to work from home one day a week.”


But fellow lead consultant Eloise, who works in the world of digital, creative and branding agencies observes that traditionally it's not been somewhere that you'll find flexible working on offer. "Traditional digital and creative agencies are not great at offering flexible working, but they are getting better and I've seen a real shift in the last year. But the offer for flexible working for  junior agency roles is still virtually non-existent and the same goes for Account Management."


Some businesses, client-side and agency, are struggling to shake the culture of ‘presenteeism’, and have an unwritten rule that workers need to be seen in the office.


But this may cost them in the long term. Bearing in mind the ongoing talent shortage in tech, companies need to do what they can to attract talent. The research by Vistage reveals that 73% of CEOs and business leaders in the UK believe that organisations that fail to offer flexible working will fail to attract talent in the future.


Which job roles are most likely to be flexible?


So, if you’re a marketing candidate looking for a new more flexible role, where’s the best place to start? Caroline Simmonds, a senior consultant for the professional and business services sector at Stopgap has some advice. “The roles most likely to offer flexible working tend to be mid- to senior-level positions.


“Flexible working does tend to be limited to one or two days a week in these sectors. Companies need to be more open to part-time and remote working as a way to extend their talent pool.”


Christine Ebeling Long, Stopgap’s customer partnerships manager adds: “In the consumer sector, companies based outside London that struggle to get the best candidates tend to offer more flexibility. This could be one day at home, the option to start and leave later, or the chance to build up hours to take as holidays.”


She continues: “In my experience, it is still tech companies with their heartland in Silicon Valley, startups, or founder-based companies that offer flexible working for altruistic reasons.”


Lead consultant at Stopgap, Jackie Pinfold agrees that companies often offer flexible working because they feel they ought to or because they want to get good people through the door.


She also notes that things can sometimes be a bit different when you work for a startup. “In the tech world, startups like to see people (CMOs and marketing directors in particular) having a strong presence in the office. “If you’re looking for a good work-life balance, a startup might not be the right choice.” 


The future of flexible working


There is growing evidence just how good working from home is. According to research Canada Life Group Insurance, 32% of employees feel that flexible working initiatives are the best way to attract and support older employees.


A growing number of companies want to take flexible working even further and are moving to a four-day week to boost employee wellbeing and increase long-term productivity. This is backed up by research from electronics company Ricoh which claims that the majority of employees are keen to make a greater commitment at work and boost their productivity through training and technology.


But flexible working isn’t just good for people, it can also benefit the planet. One study revealed that if we spent 10% less time working, our carbon footprint would be reduced by 14.6%.


It’s time more of us – employers and employees – embrace more flexible ways of working. From the positive impacts on employee mental health to the environmental benefits of not commuting, working from home is the future.


It’s up to businesses in all sectors to start trusting their employees and seeing how much flexible working can boost productivity. Here at Stopgap, we really believe in flexible working. You can work one day a week from home and we offer flexi-time, so you can start between 8 am and 10 am and finish between 5 pm and 7 pm. Our talent manager Claudine explains:

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