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Flexible working stigma must end  

Heejung Chung
gig economy

Research from YouGov shows that the majority of workers want to have some sort of flexibility in their work, with more than half wanting to deviate away from the traditional 9 to 5 routine. It has also been shown that just under half of workers are already working flexibly one way or another. Contributor Dr Heejung Chung – School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent.

This echoes my findings based on the 2015 European Working Conditions Survey which found that just under 30 percent of workers in the UK have access to some sort of flexible schedules and 23 percent regularly work outside of their offices/at home. As today’s survey shows this type of flexibility helps workers better navigate between the demands of work and family life, which increases wellbeing, job satisfaction, motivation and loyalty towards the company eventually making them stay in the job longer. This in sum provides huge benefits for employers.

The benefits of flexible working for women are especially important – providing women with more control over when and where they work allows them to stay in employment and maintain their jobs/working hours after they have children. Furthermore, there is evidence that when men work flexibly it helps their partners/women’s career progression too. As such ensuring all workers with access to flexible working is crucial to tackle the ongoing gender wage gap issues in the UK.

However, there is increasing evidence that workers, especially men, are hesitant to ask for flexible working due to fears of repercussions on their career. My own research shows that more than 1/3 of workers feel that flexible workers make more work for others, and will result in negative outcomes for one’s career/promotion chances. This is largely due to the fact that our working culture is still one where long hours in the office is seen as a sign of commitment.

But with demand for flexible working high and abundant evidence for the business case for flexible working we need to tackle the flexibility stigma – i.e., the biases against those who work flexibly, and change our notion of what productivity and commitment looks like. This will ensure flexible working works for all and achieves the benefits it can bring to both business and their staff.


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