Putting The Appeal Back Into Flexible Working

Flexible working arrangements are the future of work, but many employers still don’t truly understand the appeal.

By 2020 there will be 86 million millennials in the workplace, this represents 40 per cent of the total global working population. The Intelligence Group’s research found that 88 per cent of millennials want flexible work schedules that support work-life integration.

Despite, negative perceptions of flexible work arrangements, research has shown that it can be a win-win for both employees and employers. A 2009 study of 25,000 IBM employees found that those who worked flexibly experienced less work-life conflict and were able to work longer hours.

Organizations that choose not cater to the changing workforce demographics, by providing flexible workplace practices may find themselves at an economic and competitive disadvantage. How can we put the appeal back into flexible work?

Anna Whitehouse, founder of Mother Pukka the parenting blog, with over 70,000 followers on Instagram is working hard to encourage employers to think differently about flexible work.

Whitehouse decided to quit her job after being denied a flexible working arrangement and she is now working to advocate for better flexible workplace practices. She shares her own experiences and advice on how everyone can advocate for greater work-life balance.

You quit your job over this issue so you must feel strongly about it. Can you share your experience?

I was working at L’Oréal for 6 months. It was brilliant but I wasn’t seeing my daughter. It was breaking me. I requested four days and got declined.

They said if they had to make a decision for me, they would have to make that decision for somebody else in our department who wasn’t even pregnant. My flexibility was dependent on somebody else’s ovaries, which I found really bizarre. I don’t understand why I could not be treated as an individual.

I started Flex appeal as this positive campaign to help employees navigate this grey area of flexibility. It was launched here (in England) but I would like to bring it to America.

What is the Flex Appeal campaign?

Flex Appeal is a massive passion, because this was why I left my job. It is not in any way a revolution. It is just about change and helping that happen. It is not about saying you are terrible employers but it is about showing everyone that there is an issue and making everyone think differently.

There is just a massive gap between what employers think is happening and what is actually happening. We have sways of women and men fueling the campaign, which made me realize just how big an issue this.

We are looking to spread this movement in a way that empowers everyone and brings them together. We aim to raise as much awareness along the way as possible and we are driving dads to get involved in the conversation so that it is not just a women’s issue.

What advice do you have for employers?

The one thing organisations could do differently is to treat individuals as individuals. Don’t think this is a mummy issue. Whoever comes to you with a watertight plan for flexible work, give it a go. It is trial and error.

Why should employers ‘give it a go’?

Businesses should treat people as individuals because ultimately it means more money for them.

The consulting firm, Deloitte UK call it agile working. Agility is a more positive word than flexibility, it means you are light on your feet and more efficient and that is really their focus. They see this as a human issue and understand that it will make them more money.

A miserable workforce will not make you money. It is such a simple thing.

What advice do you have for men and women wanting to ask for a flexible work schedule?

Pull together a watertight plan. Go to them with something that could be tried out, and have the facts and figures to back up your performance and what you are saying.

Keep pushing it.

What if they say no?

Have confidence and know that even just asking and making the case for how you can make flexible work, work, will really help and raise awareness. Have confidence and ask.

Don’t be deflated if it is a no because you having asked will make it easier for the next person who comes along and asks. Eventually they will realize this is not just a one off.