Choosing your own hours? For many businesses, it’s the future of work

For years, only very brave or confident job candidates would dare ask an in­terviewer about flexible working.

Historically, the option to work from home or choose when you came into the office was restricted only to the most senior employees, as it meant compromises. Manag­ers couldn’t keep an eye on their teams, collaboration and bonding became more difficult, and productivity likely to suffer. Enquiring about flexible work might have led to an employee being perceived as de­manding, or less of a team player.

Fast forward to 2019, and the main reason candidates don’t ask about flexible working is that they no longer need to. Suddenly, businesses aren’t just allowing their employees to choose how and where they work, they’re proactively advertising the options. In fact, this year’s LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report revealed that the number of global job posts shared on LinkedIn offering flexible working have increased by 78 per cent over the last three years. In all, 64 per cent of talent professionals in the UK say their company offers some flexibility to employees, 28 per cent only offer it in special circum­stances, and 8 per cent don’t allow it at all.

So what’s changed? The same report offers some important clues. It shows how a gap in the supply of key digital skills is forcing businesses to overhaul their working culture and make full-time employment more accessible for additional types of talent. As a result, choosing your own hours is no longer something associated only with the “gig economy” or freelance work. Taking up a more traditional role might well make it easier to find the right work-life balance.

The most obvious cause of businesses’ change of heart on flexible working is that the people they need to hire are increasingly demanding it. LinkedIn’s data shows that between 2016 and 2017, flexible working jumped from being the 13th most important factor for LinkedIn members considering a new job to the top six. People with in-demand digital skills know they now have negotiating power and expect to be offered flexibility as an option. If a recruiter instead says they need to seek approval from an HR manager, that counts against the business. Those essential digital skills are likely to go somewhere else.

But the value of flexible working isn’t just in helping businesses compete for in-demand candidates. It also increases the supply and diversity of people who might be right for a job. Mothers off work after having children, parents with partners in full-time employ­ment, those with health problems or disabilities, or who live in remote, rural communities: all are valuable sources of in-demand skills, provided there’s flexibility about how and when they work. In a world of instant messaging, video conferencing and collaborative working tools, many of the downsides of flexibility can be overcome – only around 10 per cent of talent professionals now say flexibility hurts productivity.

A more diverse workforce doesn’t just give a business more hiring options. In fact, our 2018 Global Recruiting Trends survey shows that 62 per cent see it as a factor in boosting financial performance as well. Businesses are making diversity a priority for their talent strategies. That has to involve diverse ways of working.

by Jon Addison, Head of Talent Solutions at LinkedIn UK

Download the LinkedIn 2019 Global Talent Trends report.

© Business Reporter 2021

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