Why don’t we all have flexible working options?

Flexible working has been a buzzword for ages, yet we still aren’t at the point where all companies offer it.

Recent studies show that only 50% of companies will offer truly flexible working environments after the pandemic. That figure is an increase from where we were back in February, but it’s still not great.

So why aren’t we all working flexibly from now on?

I think that, fundamentally, the problem stems from the fact that there is still a stigma. 

Flexible working is labelled as a way of working for people that need to work in a different way to everyone else. Parents, carers, people with conditions or disabilities, people who don’t fit into the “normal” mould. 

Flexible working isn’t the norm because “normal” people don’t need to work flexibly, according to society. 

This view means that those who need to work flexibly are othered, often resulting in them being viewed as less hard-working, or less committed to their jobs. In turn, this means that people who may not see themselves as having a “reason” to work flexibly avoid asking for flexible working, because they don’t feel that their needs are justified versus those that need flexibility. 

But why do we need a reason for freedom?

If flexible working was the norm, then there wouldn’t need to be exceptions to the rule. We’d all be given the freedom to work in a way that works for us. 

Flexible working doesn’t just mean working from home or working flexible hours. Flexibility means something different to everyone. Your flexibility could be having the option to bring your dog to the office because you value the freedom of being able to have a dog without needing to pay a fortune for a dog-sitter; or being given the option to work from anywhere during August because your family all come together in the summer on holiday and you’ve been missing out for years because of a lack of annual leave… One person’s flexibility won’t always work for another. 

This was something that I really felt when I was working in investment banking. The (very few) working mums that were in the company would leave early to pick up their children, and the company said that they were open to flexible working. When I requested to work from home once a week in order to accommodate my autoimmune flare-ups, they sacked me. 

Working from home wouldn’t have meant I worked less hard. In fact, it would have meant that I worked harder because I wouldn’t have had to take sick days when I couldn’t walk. 

The stigma attached to flexible working is slowly being eroded, but it is still pervasive in society. Until a company provides a working environment that enables everyone to thrive, they can’t say that they are promoting equality, or inclusivity; because the othering of those who can’t work a desk-based 9-5 means that they are made to feel unequal. 

Related: How to ask for flexible working arrangements

Molly Johnson-Jones, co-founder of Flexa

Molly Johnson-Jones

Molly is the Co-founder of Flexa. Flexa is setting the standard for flexible work by verifying (they call it “Flexifying”) companies as truly flexible to help them to showcase their ways of working to candidates. In addition, Flexa posts the roles of Flexified companies for candidates to apply to. 

Do you have a flexible work story to share with Yellow Eve and Flexa? Please let us know at hello@yelloweve.co.uk – Flexa would also love to feature you on their blog too!

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