68% of London employees would prefer to work with flexible hours, according to a new report from Digitals Mums. Only 15% of these people, however, have actually requested it from their current employers.

Everyone has the legal right to ask for flexible working hours in the UK, however there is a fear amongst employees that doing so would incur negative repercussions. 48% of respondents were under the impression that asking for this from their boss would be met with a bad response, while 42% believed it could actually harm their career.

Their fear is understandable, after all if your office has set times that everyone adheres to then choosing to be the odd one out can be daunting. No-one wants to do anything that could affect their position in the workplace, and while they may be in their own right to ask for flexible hours, this isn’t common knowledge. Many people are unaware of the relatively new law that allows this request to be made, so the thought of being the person to make a change in the office probably seems like a recipe for disaster.

This is most notable amongst UK millennials, with 40% of them afraid to ask for different hours, even though 77% of them would prefer to work that way. Changes that have developed in the working dynamic of the younger generations means flexible hours are often seen as more productive than the usual nine-to-five that dominated the workplace for many decades. 61% of respondents agreed with this statement, while 63% stated that they’d probably be more loyal to a business that offered flexible hours compared to one that didn’t.

Kathryn Tyler, one of the co-founders of the social media training expert Digital Mums, said of the report that:

“The Government’s ‘right to request’ law will never make an impact while flexible working is seen as a dirty word and an employee perk. We need employers to wake up to the fact that flexible working is about attracting and retaining a generation of workers who are being failed by a rigid and restrictive ‘9 to 5 coat-on-chair’ culture.”

Flexibility in the workplace doesn’t have to be harmful to a business, and compromises can easily be made. For example, establishing a set time of a few hours in the day when everyone has to be at work can be good for ensuring communication between employees and making sure that everyone is around if you need to have meetings. If you allow them to then choose how far in advance to those hours that they come in, people can have more freedom in how they arrange their work day.

Some of us are morning people while others can’t function until later on in the day – we’re all different. Forcing everyone to follow the same rigid structure will never produce the most effective results, so what’s stopping offices from allowing a more flexible approach to their work hours?

London deputy mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, says:

“I hope this campaign will mean more businesses recognise the benefits and dispel some of the myths about working practices – not only do they make a huge difference to employees’ quality of life, they also enable businesses to better tap into the best pool of talent.”

Times are changing, and we all have to adapt if we want to keep up.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. When he’s not staying up late watching the Simpsons he’s beating the world at Mario Kart, always with a glass of wine in hand.
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