Beyond Flexibility: the emergence of ‘Generation Flex’
Published: 2 Oct 2023
This National Work Life Week we wanted to better understand the relationship parents have with family-friendly work practices, in particular how parents feel about workplace benefits, the value they put on flexible working and the impact it has.
Alongside our partner, Bright Horizons, we carried out a YouGov survey of 809 working parents of children under 18 from across Britain to ascertain what the priorities are for working parents. The results highlight that flexibility, whilst hugely positive, is just one piece of the puzzle in creating environments in which working parents can thrive. A new Generation Flex is emerging, for whom other practices have caught up in their list of priorities. For employers who want to stay competitive, it is time to start thinking beyond flexible working.
Culture is crucial
For all working parents we asked, a culture that encourages work/life balance was a top priority. Favoured by seven out of ten parents, it is more popular overall than higher pay (65%) and access to a preferred working pattern (57%). The results indicate that parents want to work in an environment where wellbeing is central, and the demands of family life are understood and accommodated.
A culture that accepts the whole self goes hand in hand with policies and practices that value and promote inclusivity, such as a willingness to be open about the challenges of family life and tackle taboo subjects. Cultivating openness from the top down as well as facilitating ways to share experiences and support peers can be powerful tools in creating a culture where parents can be themselves and successfully balance work with life.
Mental health matters
For Generation Flex, those parents who surfaced from the pandemic only to be faced with a more flexible working landscape, other aspects of working life now need as much consideration. Two in five parents would like mental health in the workplace, and was the top priority for LGBTQ+ parents, parents with health issues or disability, parents on a lower income, younger parents and single parents.
The resounding message from the research is that parents want their wellbeing at work to be a priority. This is understandable when you consider the burnout and fatigue suffered by many parents as a result of the pandemic, as well as the stress of finding affordable childcare. The scope for employers to step up to support employees through innovative practices is massive, and a foundation of flexibility and openness is a good place to start.
The research clearly highlights the potential power of working flexibly. Almost 9 out of 10 parents (89%) said access to flexible working has, or would have, a positive effect on their wellbeing. This is backed up by our Working Families Index Spotlight Report that found parents with access to flex were half as likely to have had their mental health negatively impacted due to the difficulty accessing childcare.
But flex doesn’t just benefit the individual, the research suggests that businesses benefit too. 86% of parents said access to their preferred flexible working pattern makes them or would make them more productive at their job, and 9 in 10 parents said they would feel more loyal to an employer who offered them flexible working opportunities – good news for any employer who wants to limit costly staff turnover. Women and LGBTQ+ parents were even more likely to agree with these statements, suggesting that flex can be incredibly effective in creating a diverse workforce.
Finding the flex that fits
Flexible working has become synonymous with hybrid or remote working, and yet our research makes the case that parents need a variety of work patterns. In fact, above hybrid and home-based working at 48% and 44% respectively, variable hours came out on top with six in ten parents favouring it. Other forms of flexibility proved preferable for particular groups of parents. Specifically, reduced hours and term-time working were important for women, younger parents and lower-income parents.
The research suggests that having a blanket policy on flex isn’t necessarily the best way to meeting the needs of employees. Instead, starting with a person’s circumstances can help find a solution that works for both the individual and the organisation. Our Flex-fit Job Analysis Tool can help to find the flex in every role (free during October 2023).
Getting the flex you need
When it comes to parents working flexibly, there was good news. Of the parents surveyed, 7 out of 10 parents had flexible working arrangements that work well for them and their family, and two thirds (63%) said their employer understands what they need to meet their work and caring responsibilities. As a snapshot of post-pandemic working, it’s an encouraging indication that we are going in the right direction.
And yet, there are still parents who aren’t getting the flex they need. Parents on a lower income were less likely to have the flex that worked well, and almost a third (30%) of all parents we surveyed said they had thought about quitting their job because it isn’t sufficiently flexible. In an increasingly competitive market, the employer who can demonstrate a commitment to family-friendly working will be a step ahead, not just in attracting, but holding onto the best talent.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 809 GB parents of children under 18. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th-12th September 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
For National Work Life Week 2023, we are giving away a free copy of our Flex-Fit Job Analysis Toolkit for the whole of October. It also includes five recommendations for employers based on the findings from our polling.
Flex-fit Job Analysis toolkit£50.00 + VAT To celebrate National Work Life Week (2-6 October) we are giving away this Flex-Fit toolkit for free during October.Add to basket
This National Work Life Week, together with Bright Horizons, we surveyed parents to find out what matters to them. More than ever, parents are looking beyond flexible working to other family-friendly practices that will enable them to thrive.
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