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Research: tension between needs of parents, managers and leaders stops ‘frictionless flexibility’ in the workplace

  • Three main stakeholder groups expect different things from flexible working, creating tension and friction
  • 57% working parents say flexible working arrangements are ‘inadequate’ while 81% of managers lack training and right tools to support flexible working arrangements  
  • 55% of managers say that flexible work is available to employees at different levels within their organisation, impacting equity and trust
  • “Parents want autonomy, managers want predictability and leaders want growth”

Flexible working needs to balance the requirements of all stakeholders – not just one group – in order to be truly successful, says From Another, which helps organisations and individuals manage flexible work.

With three main stakeholder groups – parents, managers and leaders – having different expectations from flexible working, there’s a danger that opposing needs can result in friction and dissatisfaction leading to reduced productivity and low retention rates.

Following 110 hours of listening exercises over a 12-week period where From Another heard from 350 stakeholders about attitudes towards flexible working arrangements, potential conflicts of interest between all three main stakeholder groups were revealed. This provides clues as to how organisations can implement frictionless approaches to flexible working.

The From Another Frictionless Flexibility #1: Balancing the Needs of Employees and Managers report revealed that of the 70% of working parents who had access to flexible work arrangements, only 57% agreed that these arrangements were adequate for their needs. Additionally 81% of managers agreed that managing flexible work requires a different skillset to managing non-flexible work arrangements, however 44% did not feel they had the right training, tools and support for their needs.

The research also found that flexibility friction can be reduced by investing in relationships and training, being clear about objectives and agreeing boundaries of flexibility in advance.

Jess Lancashire, CEO of From Another, said:

“Our research shows that when it comes to flexibility, parents want autonomy, managers want predictability and leaders want growth. These different needs cause natural tension because they’re all pulling in different directions, eroding productivity and retention.

“But flexibility is not a one-way street. It needs to be broken down into different perspectives so we’re not just focusing on one group, but all three. It’s about looking at the set of different, nuanced relationships and looking at how you can balance those different needs. It’s important to find ways to empower team members to articulate their needs and then find mechanisms to help balance these against the needs of the organisation.”

The From Another report also highlights the imbalance within organisations when offering flexibility, as more than half of managers (55%) say flexible work is available to employees at different levels. This has an impact on equity and trust – lesser-known but crucial factors that often outweigh the emphasis on the specific time and place of work.

Jess Lancashire explained:

“Trust and equity play key roles in harnessing the benefits of flexible work while minimising the disbenefits. Trusting employees to manage their time and complete work in a way that suits them best encourages them to take ownership of their responsibilities and perform at their highest potential. When it comes to equity, organisations can provide, for instance, additional family leave days for parents to manage their children’s sickness. This inclusivity sends a strong message that the organisation values the diverse needs of its employees.

“By transparently communicating the rationale behind such benefits, organisations can help non-parent employees understand the importance of supporting working parents and how it contributes to a healthier, more balanced workplace overall. This also works towards resolving some of the problems faced when it comes to bias in the workplace”.

Frictionless Flexibility #1: Balancing the Needs of Employees and Managers report is based on listening exercises of over 110 hours, explores what flexible work truly means and innovative ways of approaching it.

It explores:

  •   Tensions between three main stakeholders – parents, managers and leaders.
  •   What can happen when these tensions are out of balance.
  •   How to make flexible work a success.

Download your copy here.

About From Another

From Another delivers practical solutions to help employees, team leaders and organisations manage flexible work.

From Another’s team of experts, including business experts, an anthropologist and a counsellor, work with all people in an organisation – individuals, line managers, HR and leaders – to create productive and empathetic working environments. This supports recruitment, retention, engagement as well as diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

It does this through a research-led eco-system of courses, listening programmes and support that align with people’s and organisations’ objectives.

  • Individuals take courses to navigate and excel at work-life as their family grows, as well as participate in research to talk about their personal experiences.
  • Employers can support their employees and managers with courses and processes to maximise productivity and wellbeing. They can learn from anonymised insights and conduct From Another research to hone in on their specific circumstances and needs.

Flexibility at work isn’t about time and place. It’s about trust. From Another’s mission is to reimagine flexible work for 1 million families and 10,000 employers by 2030.

Posted in Employee Benefits, News