Thought Leadership

Creative industries not delivering on the opportunity of flexible working

Just 12% of jobs in the creative industries are advertised with any kind of flexible working, 3% below the national average.

Nicola Kemp

Managing Editor, BITE


According to Timewise’s Flexible Job Index, its annual analysis of 5 million UK job ads, the percentage of jobs in the advertising and creative industries advertised as flexible or part time has increased to 12%, up from 9% in 2018.

However, the research shows that chances of finding a flexible job become narrower as you progress in your career. The proportion of adverts for account managers which mention flexible working is 20%, yet for account directors it declines to 10%.

This doesn’t reflect the broader shift in business as a whole, where instances of senior roles offering flexible work has trebled in four years. However, the research reveals the flexible job market as a whole remains too weak to meet demand.

UK employees want to work flexibly
1 in 7
job ads advertised with any flexibility
ads for account directors that mention flexible working

Rebranding part-time work

Karen Mattison, CEO and Co-Founder of Timewise, said, “All the data shows the appetite for flexible working crosses age brackets. If you don’t expect a job for life anymore the flipside of this is that the appetite and expectation for flexible working has never been so high.” Yet despite this shift 88% of jobs in the creative industries make no mention of flexible working at all. “The demand for flexible working is greater than ever, but the market is not delivering. It is still an opaque poker game for all too many employees,” adds Mattison.

According to Timewise’s research, flexible jobs make up just 15% of vacancies in the UK (1 in 7) but 87% of UK employees want to work flexibly. Overall the research shows that 1 in 7 job ads are advertised with any kind of flexibility.

The evolution of the employee brand

While employees expect and want flexible working, Timewise believes that there remains a lag in companies embracing flexible working and understanding the halo effect to their employee brand.

“While some companies are really understanding when it comes to their existing employees, a high-trust, high-performing flexible environment, both for new and existing staff, is key to creating a compelling employee brand,” explains Mattison.

Jo Burkill, Campaigns Director for Timewise, explains that there has been a generational shift in what constitutes a good employer. “Flexible working is the best way to close the gender pay gap and attract the best talent,” she adds.

Flexible working is the best way to close the gender pay gap and attract the best talent.

Jo Burkill

The transition generation

The research comes at a significant period of transition for the creative industries, with platforms such as Dear Adland bringing to life the struggle faced by returning mothers, some of which find themselves working four days a week for 80% of the salary. These women face a double burden; as the first people in their organisations to return to work with flexible roles, they not only have to navigate their own return but become a proof point across the organisation as a whole. 

Timewise’s Burkhill urges these trailblazers to give themselves the best chance of success: “You have to consider how are you going to change the design of the job from five days to four days. You and your company will say ‘yes let’s do this’ with good intentions; your company will be grateful to have you back and you will be grateful for the flexibility. But you have to be brutally honest about what is going to change so you can make it work.”

Burkill advises a trial period to nail down a workable and healthy approach to work. She explains, “Back yourself to succeed; so often women will suffer in silence for months. If you are sat on a Friday burnt out and working in a playground then it isn’t working. You aren’t working flexibly, and your company is simply delaying the time when you crash out of the workplace.”

The future of work

As Timewise launches the eighth annual Power 50 awards, Mattison believes the working world has changed irrevocably. “Our working lives are so long and increasingly people are not willing to wait to create the working life that they want,” she explains.

However, she adds that there is still a way to go to challenge the stigma that surrounds part time working: “All too often part-time work comes with an apology or a lack of progression. We’ve seen huge progress when it comes to where and when people work, but not the how much.”

Nominations for the 8th annual Timewise Power 50 awards open today, backed by EY, Dixons Carphone, Lloyds Banking Group and Diageo.

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Flexible Working