Recruitment, Talent and HR professionals are finally seeing an increase in employers embracing remote working and flexible hours. The required technology is readily available and cheap, and studies have shown just how productive employees can be when they are shown the trust and empathy in adapting their hours to achieve a positive work/life balance. But are those without children given the same consideration as parents when requesting alternative hours or time away from the office?
Are organisations taking all requests seriously?
In 2014 the right to ask for such flexibility extended to all staff, however many argue that the reality today is that too many employers still seek justification when considering such a request. Whilst it is inescapable that parents will occasionally need to care for an unexpectedly sick child or will be unable to work past nursery or school pick-up times, this can easily build up and leave those without children to pick up the slack.
Why should a non-parent expect parity?
Professionals without children may have caring responsibilities for relatives, commitments relating to their religion or undeclared medical issues that may not fit in with a fixed schedule. An increase in mental health awareness has also highlighted the importance of work/life balance for all staff, regardless as to the reason why. Organisations both small and large benefit from motivated and content staff who feel valued and treated well, so management teams with a genuinely understanding and equal approach to flexible working patterns will really see the benefit in their teams.
Employees who feel they aren’t given the same opportunities to take care of their lives outside of work could simply look elsewhere. In a candidate-led market, any organisation that doesn’t ensure equality in the way in which HR policies are managed could easily lose talent to more forward-thinking competitors. Even if a loyal employee stuck around, it is likely that productivity would suffer and there may be a reluctance to take on additional tasks at busy periods. A divide within the team is also a significant issue for any organisation as employees see colleagues enjoy benefits that they are not.
Holidays and work outside of “normal” hours
A common complaint amongst child-free workers is that parents are given first refusal on leave during school holidays. Whilst many gladly take advantage of leave during term time to take advantage of low-cost holidays and quieter resorts, at Christmas time it is often those without children who are expected to form the skeleton-staff. Systems must be in place to ensure that everyone is able to request and have leave approved in an equal way. Likewise, in a role that routinely requires an employee’s presence outside of the standard 9-5 such as an event, conference or travelling to meet a client, the pressure of those without childcare commitments is greater than on those with it.
A tailored approach
As studies have shown, there is no one-size-fits-all way to manage a flexible working policy within any organisation. Whether it is childcare or other reasons as to why an employee feels they can be more productive with an element of flexibility, provided that the work is completed to the expected standard, this should be considered.