September is often thought of as a month for change and new beginnings and many employers are taking this time to reflect on their flexible working policies and ramp up their push to get staff to return to the office.  

Reportedly, a number of organisations such as Citigroup will be closely monitoring office attendance to track whether employees are spending a required number of days each week in the workplace.

Although this next offensive is well underway on the part of employers, the desire for flexible working, which challenges the traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 routine spent solely in the office, is still going strong amongst professionals across most sectors.

In fact, flexible working patterns, such as hybrid working and flexi-time, have now become an expectation as opposed to an exception, and continue to be a crucial consideration for both professionals settled within a company and candidates looking for a new role.

Nearly 30,000 workers at Amazon signed a petition against the increase in the number of days staff must spend working in the office. For many professionals, adhering to these new rules will be a matter of following their head over heart, through fear of losing their job if they appeal these return to office mandates.

Unsurprisingly, most professionals value transparency when it comes to the flexible working options an organisation offers, but many say their flexible working agreement is not included in their contract, according to our latest research.

The most sought after flexible working patterns

Hybrid working continues to be the most widely offered flexible working pattern, as 70% of organisations give their staff the option to split their time between the office and working remotely.

The flexible working options that would tempt professionals to change jobs include a four-day week (52%), totally remote working (44%), hybrid working (35%) and agile working hours (33%).

However, as it stands, employees remain unsettled due to a lack of transparency when it comes to flexible working. Whilst employers might offer flexible working patterns informally, there’s a risk that they’re missing an opportunity from an attraction and retention perspective if they do not respond to a candidate’s needs.

Many professionals either continue to need to, or want to, work flexibly and have organised their lives in a way that is aligned to their flexible working pattern.

As our research reveals, almost half (47%) of professionals would be tempted to change jobs if an organisation was more transparent about the flexible working options they provide.

The importance of transparency is clear

A number of employers acknowledge how crucial transparency is when it comes to the flexible working agreements they offer; over half (53%) believe transparency around their organisation’s approach to flexible working is very important to help attract staff, followed by 34% who say quite important.

Only 8% of employers believe flexible working transparency isn’t very important for talent attraction, and 5% say not important at all.

From an employee perspective, most (93%) professionals say it is important for an organisation to be transparent about the flexible working options they provide, whereas only a small number of employees say transparency isn’t very important (5%) or not important at all (2%).

The majority (90%) of professionals also believe it’s important to have easy access to an organisation’s flexible working policy when looking for a new role. If flexible working information is not easily accessible, this could raise the question: are some employers not explictly stating their flexible working plans deliberately, or is this an unwitting blind spot?

For instance, if working from home three days a week is very important to a candidate, employers who are reluctant to offer this flexibility, or include this agreement in a person’s contract, risk missing out on top talent. Therefore, employers ought to focus on making their flexible working policies transparent for both candidates and current staff.

Professionals want flexible working policies in writing

Whilst majority (84%) of professionals say it would be important for hybrid or remote agreements to be included in their contract for a new role, over a third (37%) of professionals say their flexible working agreement is not currently included in their contract, creating a lack of clarity, stability and trust.

In terms of taking on the opinions of professionals when it comes to their flexible working preferences, 43% of employers say they don’t ask their staff for feedback on ways of working, but employers ought to improve their communication channels, in order to create a culture of openness.

As our research demonstrates, flexible working patterns are highly desired by most professionals today but are not currently set in stone across a range of organisations. Employees want to know where they stand when it comes to the flexibility they’re entitled to and rest assured that this won’t suddenly change, so employers should focus on being as transparent and reasonable as possible when it comes to their flexible working offerings.

It’s also important for employers to gather, respond to and share feedback from professionals, to stay in the know when it comes to the most appealing ways of working, which inevitability shift as time goes on and vary depending on an individual’s lifestyle and needs.

In order to respond to this desire for transparency, employers ought to clarify the flexible working options they offer and ensure these are clearly communicated, from the job advert, to the interview stage, to the contract and beyond.

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