The recent TimeWise report highlights that whilst many UK employers offer flexible working arrangements to their employees, few actually advertise that flexible arrangements are available when recruiting new staff.

Of the 3.5 million job adverts offering a salary of £20,000+ per annum examined, only 6.2% mentioned that flexible working was available.

In some ways this is quite puzzling.

Official estimates suggest that flexible working is widespread in the UK. In addition research carried out by Cranfield School of Management, examining the implementation of flexible working, found that many employees simply make arrangements to work flexibly on an informal basis with their line manager, rather than making a request through the formal process.  This suggests that flexible working is probably much more prevalent than official figures imply.

We know that employees place high value on having some choice over their working arrangements and there is lots of evidence that organisations reap a range of business benefits, such as increased levels of commitment and the ability to recruit and retain high calibre employees.

Not being upfront about the flexible working opportunities available may mean that employers are restricting the talent pool available to them. Applicants who require flexible working arrangements to meet non-work commitments, such as parenting or caring, may be discouraged from applying if opportunities for flexibility are not explicitly mentioned. It also sends a, possibly unintended, signal to potential recruits about how they value work-life balance.

Understandably, some employers may be reluctant to agree flexible working arrangements from the outset, when they don’t know the employee and how well they will perform. Perhaps there is a deeper issue here about how flexible workers (and indeed all employees) are managed.  Instead of relying on approaches where line managers directly observe employees and monitor their work, flexibility implies more of a focus on deliverables and achieving standards.

Given the business benefits from making flexibility available to employees and the ability to draw talent from a wider pool, employers would be advised to be clear about what flexibility they can offer in job advertisements. If they are apprehensive about whether an arrangement will work, it could be set up on a trial basis. A scheduled review after a few months then allows both parties to assess how well it works and suggest any amendments.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.