Flexible working benefits us all.

Prompted by a colleague’s comment to one of the questions on this blog, as well as an April Fools joke from another colleague,  I thought I’d consider the impact of flexible working this week.

In relation to flexible working for employees the Women’s Equality Party states:

Enlightened businesses now understand that, managed properly, flexible working is not a cost but a benefit to all involved, regardless of gender. Opening hours can be stretched and doing business with other time zones is easier; home working can save money by enabling you to use less office space; and flexibility can enable you to retain talented workers who otherwise would retire, move jobs, or devote themselves full time to caring responsibilities at home.” (WEP, 2017)


This infographic shows that when colleagues are able to work flexibly it benefits us all, in that not only does it promote productivity, it also promotes health, wellbeing and motivation amongst employees.

6 Killer Benefits of Working From Anywhere

Microsoft have also recently published an e-guide on the benefits of flexible working and it makes for interesting reading as well as busting some myths. It can be accessed at: http://www.londonlovesbusiness.com/Journals/2015/12/14/Business-Anywhere—The-ultimate-guide-to-flexible-working.pdf

Working towards workplace equality involves looking for patterns, and patterns of flexible working in the UoB are currently difficult to view since there is no one transparent process in place across the board for agreeing flexible working when it is requested, nor for recording what is agreed.  All employees (not just parents and carers)  who have worked for their employer for over 26 weeks, have the legal right to request flexible working. Employers in turn must manage such requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ by considering the advantages and disadvantages of the request, meeting with the employee to discuss the outcome, and by offering an appeal process should the outcome not be what the employee is seeking (www.gov.uk, 2017).

Through our SoE  Athena SWAN survey which will be released in May 2017, we hope to gain more information about the SoE staff experience as related for requests for flexible working, but would also like to hear more through this blog.

Please comment.


WEP (2017). Because Equality is Better for Everyone.  Available at: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/womensequality/pages/279/attachments/original/1487934933/WEP_policy_document_2017.pdf?1487934933  Accessed 3.4.17.

www.gov.uk (2017). Flexible Working. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/flexible-working/overview Accessed 3.4.17.

Read 4 comments

  1. As someone who has had a flexible working request on health grounds turned down (and on appeal too) I have no faith at all in our School getting Athena Swan status and don’t think it should! I know of at least 2 female staff who have been refused and at least 3 male staff for whom this has been agreed! I am de-moralised and deeply offended by the treatment I have received from the Head of School. HR have not helped either!

  2. A word of caution triggered by the statement at the top:

    “home working can save money by enabling you to use less office space”.

    We have to be really careful not to confuse flexible working as a right of employees in enlightened institutions, and as a way to transfer costs onto them by making them carry the costs of working from home (heat, light, internet access etc) and an excuse for reducing office space into open plan settings. The latter in particular has often proved disastrous for creativity and collegiality among academic staff who cannot concentrate in noisy environs, therefore come in less, therefore have less encounters with colleagues, etc etc.

  3. The university’s “Flexible working toolkit” is an admirable document and certainly emphasises the benefits of flexible working and encourages managers to seriously consider such requests. The problem is that not all managers are convinced of the benefits of flexible working or for other reasons don’t want to agree flexible working requests. The issue is that it is possible for managers to refuse the request “on business grounds” (without needing to give much in the way of justification) and there is no appeal if these “business grounds” are disputed and there is no further scrutiny of the HoS judgement of the business grounds for refusing a request. The only basis for appeal is failure to abide by the procedure and/or new information which should be taken into consideration. The original decision by the head of school is not subject to appeal. This seriously undermines confidence in the process as revealed by the post above.

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