Is flexible work really working?

In a time when more mothers work full-time than ever before, My Family Care found that over 60% of working parents are not happy with their work life balance and over half (54%) felt requesting flexibility may negatively affect their career. There is also the ever-present sense of colleague resentment: both real and imagined.

Over 45% of respondents say they can rarely or never rely on close relatives or a support network to help out in a childcare emergency. This lack of support system close by has a big impact when regular care arrangements break down or where care is needed unexpectedly. 85% of all respondent parents need extra help when their regular care is unavailable and 33% of those responsible for eldercare also do. ‘Occasional help’ is not exactly infrequent either over 50% of all respondents say they need emergency care for 5 days or more per year. 13% of all respondents (rising to 16% if director/partners and senior managers are excluded) take sick leave when care breaks down. As care breakdowns will happen multiple times per year, there are obvious implications for employers’ absenteeism rates.

Ben Black of My Family Care said, “The only cure for this is when flexible working comes as standard, and comes from the top. When the leadership group sees flexibility as a way of doing business: meeting needs in a global environment operating 24/7 world and saving on travel and real estate costs, then there is no stigma in being a parent or carer who delivers outcomes in a range of ways other than sitting at a desk 9 to 5. More parents need to work full time but don’t want to miss out on those important milestones such as their child’s first school play or arriving home in time to see their children before bed and then catch up on work that evening; it is all about understanding mangers and a relationship of trust.”

Working patterns are very varied with less than half only working at their employers place of work. Most common is to work from home on the odd day, but 16% work from home some days on a regular basis. More mothers work full-time than ever before – 65% of respondents work full time, the other most common way of working is part time, working fewer days per week, this accounts for 29% of respondents, hence the surge of the 3 or 4 day week amongst working mothers.

Ben Black of My Family Care continues, “What seems key here, is that what is most valued in flexible working arrangements is flexibility, rather than a sharp boundary between ‘work’ and ‘life’. For the majority, flexibility also emerges as a two-way street: the employer & manager need to give a little (which the employee pays back in loyalty) and the most successful and well rewarded employee is likely to be the one who is also able to offer flexibility – to go ‘above and beyond’, when necessary.”