Flexible Working in Lower Income Roles
Low Income Roles and flexible Working
August 22, 2022
August 22, 2022

The people we spoke to for our Flex in Lower-income Roles research reported a range of experiences of flex across organisations and even among people working in the same role within the same organisation.

For many people, flex often means relatively minor adjustments to working patterns to allow home and family life to be more easily managed.

Even such relatively minor adjustments, for example to start and finish times, can lead to really quite profound benefits for people.

People spoke stirringly about increased home-life harmony, more equitable distribution of household tasks between cohabiting couples, and less stress being placed on their relationships, with an associated boost to their wellbeing. People also recognised and passionately appreciated the greater opportunities for emotional bonding with their kids that flex can facilitate, for example through being able to share time and hold meaningful conversations with their kids during the school run, rather than having to get someone else to do it. This link between flexible working and child development is one that is worth us exploring more deeply in the future.

For some of our parents, especially the single-parents we interviewed, having access to flex is vital for them to be able to work at all. It really is as stark as flex meaning these people can access the labour market and greater prospects for career progression, from which they would otherwise be excluded if approaches to flexible working were not well developed in their organisations.

One participant spoke of flex in his role having allowed him to ‘turn his life around’ and that he ‘doesn’t know where he would be now if he didn’t have flex.’

With such strong sentiment expressed and the value people clearly have for the varied benefits authentic, well-developed approaches to flex can bring about, how can we work to ensure these benefits are gained by as many as possible and are spread as equitably as possible across income bands and throughout the population at large?

According to our interviewees, the most important thing organisations can do to allow flex to flourish as optimally as possible across different roles, is to authentically listen to their staff and nurture their wider organisational cultures, so that people feel comfortable in speaking about flex and how they may access it.

As many organisations publish updated policies and guidance it is important to be careful not to assume that simple publication of a new policy means that it’s automatically being understood and implemented across the organisation, especially when it may be quite a departure from long-standing ways of working pre-covid for example. Organisations need to robustly ensure new approaches are being implemented similarly across all levels and departments of their workforce.

And whilst we are in recent times seeing increased detail and volume of such policies and guidance to support organisations in their approaches to flex, people were keen to highlight the importance of the informal nature of many approaches that are central to making arrangements around flex, and stressed that things like, for example, informal discussions between line-managers and their direct reports, should and will remain key to the development of more flexible working approaches for more people.

A key message encapsulated in our report therefore, is to normalise flex without over-formalising approaches to it.

Read our full report and associated literature review where we share the full findings from this piece of work: https://www.flexibilityworks.org/flexible-working-research/flex-in-lower-income-roles/

Related blog posts

Hybrid working in Scotland, what our new data shows

Hybrid working in Scotland, what our new data shows

We’ve published a short white paper today outlining our latest research on what hybrid working currently looks like in Scotland, along with data-driven insights on how to get the best from it. Our data from 1,000 Scottish workers in desk-based jobs, gathered in July,...

read more
We’re Hiring a Comms Lead!

We’re Hiring a Comms Lead!

We are looking for a Communications Lead to join our team! Could this be you? About the Role Do you have a strong background in communications and marketing? Do you have an eye for a good story and know how to convey messages in a clear and concise way? We are looking...

read more