Happy to talk flexible working?

For many people, the most valued non-cash benefit employers can provide, according to HR services provider ADP UK, is flexibility.  The ability to work when and where they want is closely linked to how engaged they feel at work, and although a third of those polled said that flexibility was their most significant source of motivation, HR directors continued to rate praise and recognition as the most important factors for ensuring good performance.

This difference of perspective between employees and HR professionals poses a challenge to our new partnership, Family Friendly Working Scotland. This partnership between Parenting across Scotland, Fathers Network Scotland, Working Families and the Scottish Government is currently targeting managers in organisations across Scotland to attract entries to a new awards scheme which seeks to find the top Scottish employers for family-friendly working practices. Unfortunately, rather too many managers describe their organisations as moving towards greater flexibility but 'not ready' to try for an award. That sounds fair enough - every journey starts with a single step - but if employees and the senior managers who advise on and set policy see the world as differently as this research implies, there is a real risk that our leaders are headed in the wrong direction.

The CBI reports that, although nine out of ten organisations offer flexible working, 42% of people surveyed said they would feel uncomfortable about asking to work more flexibly. This reticence is all the more worrying given that the same survey revealed that over a third of respondents found juggling work and home life difficult. Flexible working is clearly on many organisational menus but, like puffer fish, the famously poisonous Japanese delicacy, it appears that a lot of us are too afraid to choose it.

We have to ask why.  And, more importantly, what we can do in our own organisations to combat any anxiety people feel about the impact on them and their careers should they exercise their right to ask to work more flexibly.

Family Friendly Working Scotland is aiming to build confidence and momentum by highlighting good practice through the awards scheme, and by offering employers the chance to signal their willingness to consider flexible working right from the start. We are currently seeking employers who would like to use a simple logo and strapline 'Happy to talk flexible working' on recruitment materials to help them attract the widest possible pool of skilled and talented people.

Could you do more in your organisation? We can guarantee you won't be the first to start taking family friendly working more seriously and that, if recruiting and keeping good people matters to you, you definitely don't want to be the last.

You can find out more about the Scottish Top Employers for Working Families Awards at: www.workingfamilies.org.uk/employers/top-employers-special-awards/

For more information, contact Nikki Slowey at nikki.slowey@workingfamilies.org.uk