Nearly three in five working parents think their employer’s flexible working arrangements are inadequate, a survey has found.
Research by From Another revealed that seven in 10 (70%) mothers and fathers have access to flexible options, but just 57% believe they meet their needs.
Its report, Frictionless Flexibility #1: Balancing the Needs of Employees and Managers, further found that while 81% of managers think that handling flexible work requires different skills to dealing with non-flexible arrangements, 44% do not believe they have had the right tools, training and support to do this.
The flexible working organisation’s study discovered varying expectations of flexible working among the three key stakeholder groups – parents, managers and leaders. It warns that differing needs could cause friction and dissatisfaction, leading to a drop in productivity and staff retention rates.
Jess Lancashire, CEO of From Another, said: “Our research shows that when it comes to flexibility, parents want autonomy, managers want predictability and leaders want growth. These different needs cause natural tension because they’re all pulling in different directions, eroding productivity and retention.
“But flexibility is not a one-way street. It needs to be broken down into different perspectives so we’re not just focusing on one group, but all three. It’s about looking at the set of different, nuanced relationships and looking at how you can balance those different needs. It’s important to find ways to empower team members to articulate their needs and then find mechanisms to help balance these against the needs of the organisation.”
The research also highlighted an imbalance in terms of accessibility, with more than one in two managers (55%) claiming flexible work is on offer to staff at different levels, which From Another believes has an impact on equity and trust.
Lancashire added: “Trust and equity play key roles in harnessing the benefits of flexible work while minimising the disbenefits. Trusting employees to manage their time and complete work in a way that suits them best encourages them to take ownership of their responsibilities and perform at their highest potential. When it comes to equity, organisations can provide, for instance, additional family leave days for parents to manage their children’s sickness. This inclusivity sends a strong message that the organisation values the diverse needs of its employees.
“By transparently communicating the rationale behind such benefits, organisations can help non-parent employees understand the importance of supporting working parents and how it contributes to a healthier, more balanced workplace overall. This also works towards resolving some of the problems faced when it comes to bias in the workplace.”
The report further suggests that flexibility friction can be reduced by investing in training and relationships, being clear about goals and agreeing boundaries in advance.