Fuel Your Imagination

Flex For All

With both government and campaigners taking aim at the ‘advertising gap’ which underlines the historical inflexibility of the workplace, brands are beginning to pay attention.

Nicola Kemp

Managing Editor, BITE

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A new campaign is calling on companies to ensure that all brands are advertised as flexible from the outset and bridge the marketing gap that still exists when it comes to flexible working.

The Flex For All campaign is being launched by Pregnant Then Screwed, Fawcett Society, influencer and campaigner Mother Pukka and the Fatherhood Institute. The alliance of charities and campaigning groups have come together to challenge the marketing gap between the desire for flexible working and the number of jobs advertised as such. A gap which is particularly acute for the creative industries, where an industry which is so creative in its output has been criticised for a lack of creativity surrounding how, when and how much people work.

The campaign will include a petition to call for legislative changes in how all jobs are advertised. It asks the government to change the law so that when recruiting for a role, an employer will be legally obligated to promote the flexible working options available in the advert.

61%
have never seen or cannot recall seeing flexible working options in a job advert
73%
believe their jobs can be done flexibly
65%
feel more productive when they work flexibly

Flexible by default

The campaign comes amidst a significant shift towards more flexible and fluid forms of working, a change in working practices which has significantly impacted the creative industries. In an era in which a growing swathe of employees are embracing freelancing as a career Plan A, corporations are having to reconsider how to attract and retain the best talent.

Yet despite this intense competition on talent, campaigners believe that all too often, flexibility is offered as a concession to existing employees rather than embracing it as a way to elevate their employee brand and attract and retain the best talent. In the midst of this inaction, the Flexible Working Bill being introduced in parliament tomorrow (16th July) aims to make all jobs flexible by default, unless a sound business reason prevents it.

Conservative MP and Deputy Chairperson of the party Helen Whately, who is supporting the campaign, says the 40-hour, five day working week made sense in an era of single-earner households and stay-at-home mums, but no longer reflects the reality of how many modern families live their lives. She explains, “Too many women are reluctantly dropping out of work or forced to go part time after having children because their employers won’t allow them flexibility. That means women miss out on opportunities and the country loses out on the contribution they could and would like to make.”

Too many women are reluctantly dropping out of work or forced to go part time after having children because their employers won’t allow them flexibility. That means women miss out on opportunities and the country loses out on the contribution they could and would like to make.

Helen Whately

Creativity to drive flexibility

Joeli Brearley, Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, believes there is a significant opportunity for the marketing and creative industries to help bridge the marketing gap when it comes to flexible working. She explains, “We have spoken to many employers who advertise jobs without stating the flexible working options available, but when questioned say they would offer flexibility to the right candidate.” However, according to Brearley, by failing to advertise the role flexibly, the right candidate will not apply in the first place as they might assume the job can’t be done flexibly.

She adds, “This is certainly a challenge for the creative industry, which has a reputation for long hours, and a 'drop everything for a pitch' perception. It's about stepping back and starting to ask why, why can't that role can't be done flexibly? And if it can, then explore how and then talk about that, out loud, so that brilliant candidates can throw their hat into the ring.” 

Breaking the myths of flexible working

The creative industry is also in a unique position to challenge the stereotypes surrounding flexible working. As the recent social media backlash against Elle’s campaign for Fiat UK, which critics argued perpetuated outdated stereotypes of flexible working, underlined failing to recognise the fundamental shift afoot in the workplace.

The Flex For All research reveals that employees are paying for these stereotypes with a lack of career progression. According to the research of those who worked flexibly, 53% felt that their career had stagnated, 48% felt that they were not respected as much as they were previously, and 51% had taken a pay cut to get flexible hours.  

“People still think ‘working from home’ is short-hand for taking the day off or skiving,” explains Brearley. “This simply isn’t true and time and time again research shows that giving employees freedom to work from home or do more flexible hours increases productivity and staff wellbeing.”

Brearley urges senior employees in organisations to work flexibly to reduce the stigma, pointing to the example of the CEO of Pepsi who encourages his team to “leave loudly” when they need to go and fulfil a personal obligation. She explains, “This encourages a flexible culture, where employees don’t feel guilty for leaving the office early or on time. It is seen as normal and that's important, it shouldn't be the exception it should be the rule.”

It's about stepping back and starting to ask why, why can't that role can't be done flexibly? And if it can, then explore how and then talk about that, out loud, so that brilliant candidates can throw their hat into the ring.

Joeli Brearley

Flexibility for talent

Marketing leaders would be forgiven for approaching a state of ennui when it comes to assessing the myriad of research on the impact of Millennials and Gen Z on the workplace. Yet a danger remains that in pursuit of the urgent, business leaders overlook the important. As Brearley warns, with the legitimate chance of a no deal Brexit on the horizon, the war for talent is set to become even more acute.

She explains, “There are hundreds of thousands of people forced out of the workplace because they need flexible working, either due to caring responsibilities, mental health issues, or because they want to have a much better work life balance. By showing from the outset that you have a flexible working culture these talented people will be much more interested in working for your organisation.”

Embracing flexibility also has a significant impact on employer branding, according to Brearley. By demonstrating you have considered flexible working and effectively integrated this type of working into your company culture it shows you are a modern and progressive employer. She adds, “Employees want to be respected and trusted and flexible working clearly demonstrates a culture where people come first, and this pays off for companies, not only with staff retention, but with the bottom line.”

In an era in which a growing swathe of employees are showing no intention of following established career ladders or hierarchies, the Flex for All campaign is an important reminder of why embracing flexible working is fast becoming an industry imperative.

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