Is flexibility all it’s cracked up to be?

By the end of June 2014, all employees with over 6 months’ service will have the right to request flexible working hours, regardless of whether they have caring responsibilities.

I imagine some of my childless colleagues get irritated by the flexibility afforded to us parents at present. Or do they know the reality?

As a mum of two, who already has flexible working conditions, I’m wondering whether many people will take this up. Will there be lines of employees queuing up in HR departments across the City trying to get their requests for flexible working patterns in first? Working in a business like recruitment, (which is very much not a part time job!), I question why someone would choose to put themselves through the pressure and potential stress of cramming such a hectic 5-day-a-week job into a shorter working week, if they didn’t have children or a relative to care for.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Generation X and have been brought up believing in “work hard / play hard”, “what you put in you get back”, “longer hours equals higher productivity”, etc. That’s why on the days when I have to leave the office early I feel guilty (even though I know I will be logging in later). And I imagine some of my childless colleagues get irritated by the flexibility afforded to us parents at present. Or do they know the reality? That we will be tapping away on our laptops once we’ve settled our little ones down for the night, while they are half an hour into their spin classes or knee deep in their “Game of Thrones” box sets.
Either way, the government’s relaxation of the flexible working regulations will go some way to alleviating any feelings of guilt or annoyance on either side. But I think half of the issue will be the need for a change in mentality (especially for us Generation X's). There is no getting away from the fact that the work-life balance is increasingly important. Any of our clients already taking a flexible approach to working conditions are giving themselves a serious competitive edge.
As a business we have recently introduced flexi time with some flexibility around working hours at the start and end of the day. It’s only a small step but has generally been well received (and has stopped me feeling guilty about my early finishes!) Whether there will still be a queue of people forming in HR on the 1st July 2014, I’m not sure. At the end of the day we have a very hectic job to do, so there’s a balance to be found.
I’m just writing this on my day off before I check my emails, while the kids have a nap, so best crack on …

Where are we now

3 years after the introduction of flexi-time and it's clear it was the correct decision. Employees have a better work-life balance and the guilt of finishing work early has disappeared as everyone understands the situation a bit more. As time went on, I adapted to fit a full week of work into reduced hours but also kept my life. I would highly recommend flexible working hours to any business as it will also help you attract better employees you may not have before. 

Victoria Walmsley's picture
Managing Director