Flexible working brings benefits but employers yet to get on top of it according to report

A fundamental rethink of how jobs are advertised and designed is necessary for truly family friendly working finds new research

Flexible Working


Men are increasingly looking for flexible working options when considering a new job.

A new report found more than two thirds of dads want to know how their work will fit with their childcare commitments before taking a new position or a promotion. The majority of parents also say that flexible working boosts their happiness, effort and performance.

Attitudes to work-life balance are particularly strong among millennials who are wary of technology leaving them ‘always on’ for work and who say they want to share domestic duties equally. Around two in five millennials say they are considering downshifting in their career in order to have a better balance.

Working Families and Bright Horizons launched their latest Employer Report last week. It lays out key takeaways and recommendations for employers from the 2019 Modern Families Index.

It focuses on flexible working which it says can be patchy and on the need to end the stigma against part-time workers. It also shows that flexible working alone is not a panacea and that issues around job design, workloads and organisational culture can undermine some of its benefits of flexibility. It says proper management of flexibility to ensure it works is often missing.


The report states that job design and flexible recruitment are potential solutions to some of these issues and adds that if jobs are flexible and well-designed, people want to stay in them. However, when people want to move on they need flexible new jobs which may involve rethinking how a job might be done flexibly and how it can be optimised. Working Families emphasises the benefits of this approach for all workers, not just parents.

Career progression

On career progression the report recommends that employers challenge assumptions that reduced hours means reduced commitment and start tracking performance appraisals to ensure that flexible workers, and in particular part-time workers, are not penalised by a workplace culture that values long hours and presenteeism. It also calls for an assessment of career opportunities for part-time workers and for strategies to ensure men understand the part-time and flexible working options open to them and are encouraged them to use them.

Flexible working

On flexible working, it recommends employers ensure their flexible working policies are up to date, available and transparent, that they support work-life balance, that agreements are monitored and managed to see that they are working effectively and delivering work life balance. It also advises employers to be adaptable to changing expectations and values.


On technology, it calls on employers to ensure that there are robust policies and procedures around the use of technology to work flexibly and that employees know that they can and should disconnect without penalty. It says managers should be trained to use technology in a way that enables smarter working, not digital presenteeism, and respects work-life balance, with parameters agree around use so people don’t feel the need to be ‘always on’. There is also a call for employers to respect employees’ different life stages and that individuals’ attitudes to technology and working may change over a working lifetime.

Role models

On the reality of work and care, the report recommends showcasing senior role models with caring responsibilities, normalising flexibility through job design and flexible recruitment and communicating with employees about their rights around family-friendly working. It says there is a need to develop “human-sized jobs” that don’t require long hours or unreasonable workloads and for a greater awareness of potential blind spots, such as on elder care.

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