Business

Half of office workers in north predicting an end of 9-to-5 day

Half of office workers in Northern Ireland are predicting the end of the traditional 9 to 5 working day

THE workplace landscape will change substantially over the next five years, with nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of office workers in the UK envisaging that working flexibly will be the norm.

But in Northern Ireland, just over half (54.5 per cent) are predicting the end of the traditional 9-to-5 desk-bound working day over that period, according to findings in a study on flexible working on behalf of recruitment consultancy 9-2-3.

The survey was fully discussed at a House of Commons event yesterday, supported by MP Victoria Prentis, to mark the launch of the 9-2-3 Club.

The survey also showed that flexibility (26 per cent) is often the third most important key influencer on career choices after pay and location.

There was a substantial gender difference with nearly one in three women siting flexibility as the key influencer and only one in five men - indicating that UK businesses need to give female workers in particular the option of flexibility rather than forcing them to hourly commutes and being tied to their desks.

Helen Wright, founder of 9-2-3 and the businesswoman taking the lead on the event and advocating flexible working arrangements, is calling for a national flexible working day in 2018 as part of the campaign to make flexible working mainstream.

As well as raising the benefits of flexible working, the campaign will highlight the need for this issue to be taken on board at executive levels and with leadership from the government.

However the research also showed that one in five women thought that working flexibly has a negative effect on career prospects. In fact, half of men and women thought it made no difference or had a negative impact on their career prospects.

Ms Wright said: “This negative connotation of flexible working needs to be reversed and a greater uptake of flexible arrangements need to be created across businesses.

"Working with both employers and employees, we've identified that flexible work is crucial to the wellbeing of employees in the workforce, but also to the productivity of organisations – but as a society we're not doing enough about this.”

Many SMEs have already recognised that creative ideas don't necessarily happen between 9 to 5 and that by allowing flexible working, businesses can grow.

“Our hope is that through a future national flexible working day, the perceived negative connotations of working flexibly will be reversed and a greater uptake of flexible arrangements will occur across the UK. In fact, I would like to see all vacancies being advertised with some flexible arrangements. I am also calling on all candidates to ask about flexible working practices in their next interview, not a demand, just a question” Ms Wright added.

Victoria Prentis said: “Having job-shared before I became a MP, I'm really supportive of any initiative that encourages flexibility in the workplace. It is not just mums and dads who have career breaks – increasingly we are seeing people taking on caring responsibilities for elderly relatives as well. Helping these talented professionals to continue to work is so important.

“I know that the government is keen to encourage flexible work days and programmes aimed at returners. Some £5m in funding has been earmarked to help people - in particular mothers - back to work, and last month it was announced that some of this money will go towards schemes to help civil servants, teachers, social workers and health workers get back to work after a career break. We are making good progress in the right direction.”

Figures show there are 427,000 female professionals looking to return to work following a career break (which is worth £1.7 billion to the UK economy) and a campaign to recognise the importance of flexibility will help achieve gender diversity in the workplace.

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