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Millennial’s and Flexible working - Guest Article by Charlotte Woods

Millennial’s and flexible working are two very big topics which have been in the news consistently, both in the HR world and in general. I am classed as being part of the ‘Generation Y’ Millennial category. Part of my childhood was technology free, whilst the other half involved the evolution of the Internet and technology; therefore, I like to think I have seen how technology can help us in the quest for flexible working. My journey into the world of HR started four years ago and during this time I have worked for some big corporations, as well as smaller business so I have experienced how successfullly/unsuccessfullly flexible working can be implemented among my generation and as a whole.

Flexible working comes in many forms as I’m sure you are aware, including part time work, job sharing, flexi-time, working from home and compressed hours. Some of which I have been lucky enough to experience but sometimes I have not been included..  From the research I completed for  my dissertation on flexible working, this often comes down to the companies’ culture and its core values on how to treat employees. Other key factors were management styles and deeply held beliefs on  on flexible working. Some organisations preach that you can work  flexibily, but if your manager does not believe in it, you are unlikely to be able to benefit from this One key  factor is not having trust or control over your workforce which deters many organisations from implementing flexible working. Whilst for some industries this is historically understandable, the advancements in in technology, has revolutionalised the way we work, how we communicate and is a great enabler for flexible working.

This leads on to having the infrastructure in place to allow flexible working. It doesn’t matter what size the business is or which sector it is, it is more about how flexible working is implemented within the culture, from the management down to the employees, rather than having a lot of amazing technology or having a huge resource of people who can cover each other. Flexible working only works as long as there is flexibility from both the employees’ side and the company because it is, indeed, a two-way street.

As a millennial, flexible working is becoming increasingly important to us rather than having an increase in salary or a promotion, which has been shown in many recent statistics. Our lives are increasingly becoming busier and we must cram more and more into each day. Even if we aren’t at the point yet of having children, or indeed have a desire to have children, there are a multitude of reasons why we would like to have access to flexible work. From my own personal experiences and research, if you are childless you often need a valid reason in order to justify why you should be able to work from home. For example, in my study I found the biggest proportion of employees who utilise flexible working are firstly, working mothers, but the second was employees who care for a member of their family. The third was simply because people have activities outside of work that would appreciate more flexibility, to ensure they can participate.

I firmly believe that there is a whole pocket of talent that many organisations are  not tapping into, simply because businesses don’t believe that they can support flexible working. However, with unemployment rates at an historic low at present, businesses are going to have to look for more innovative ways, to attract and retain millennials. Work/life balance is such a core value which is intrinsic to us as a generation and if we were given the choice to choose our hours or given the option to work at home, I believe businesses would reap the rewards from having a very loyal and reliable workforce.  The ability to work flexibly is one of the top priorities when choosing a job for millennials and is key in retaining us as a generation.

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