Campaigning for flexible work: Why corporate Britain needs to ‘clean up the F-word’

The Digital Mums #WorkThatWorks campaign is calling on society to help 'clean up the F-Word’, challenging the taboo around flexible working for a productivity boost, greater diversity and a happier workforce.

New research reveals that seven in ten UK employees want flexible work but over half fear it would be viewed negatively by their employer. The fear of this new ‘F-word’ could be holding employees back.

Digital Mums commissioned a survey of over 2,000 adults in the UK, which shows how millennial employees, in particular would like flexible working but are too scared to ask for it. The research suggests that even three years on, the government’s ‘right to request’ law hasn’t  removed barriers to a more flexible way of working, in tune with today’s technology and entrepreneurial workforce.

The new research suggests the law isn’t working, with over half of UK employees believing that asking for flexible working hours would be viewed negatively by their employer and a further 42 per cent thinking it would have a negative impact on their career. This fear factor is most significant amongst millennials, with 40 per cent saying they’d be too nervous or worried to ask for flexible working hours despite eight in 10 wanting this way of working.

The report also shows flexible working could be the solution to businesses attracting the best talent. Despite 68 per cent of UK employees still not having access to flexible working, six in 10 UK workers said they would be more productive if they could work flexibly and over two thirds said they would be more loyal to a business. Significantly,  75 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds currently not working are more likely to apply for a job with flexible hours over a standard job.

The research was commissioned as part of Digital Mums’ #WorkThatWorks Movement, which aims for flexible working to be seen as the norm for everyone and not just the reserve of a ‘lucky’ few. To kick-start this societal shift,  the social media training company is calling on everyone to sign its ‘Clean Up The F-Word’ petition to change the government’s current definition of flexible working from something that  focuses solely on ‘a way of working that suits an employee’s needs’ to ‘work that works for employees and businesses’.

“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 fact that flexible working is about attracting and retaining a generation of workers who are being failed by a rigid and restrictive ‘nine to five coat-on-chair’ culture,” Kathryn Tyler, co-founder Digital Mums, said.  “That’s why we’re calling on everyone to sign our petition to change the Government’s definition so we can clean up the F-word and change the way we work forever.” The study suggests that flexible working may be the first step for a new technology-led business-first Britain.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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