The Future Of Flexible Working

How many hours do you work a day?

Before you yell “TEN”, let me just remind you that your boss can’t hear you. This is between us. Doctor patient confidentiality and that.

It’s less than ten isn’t it?

Studies show it’s actually closer to three.

Three hours of actual work a day. The rest’s just messing around. Apparently.

Now this is based on an American study, and is an average across industries. Which means it doesn’t account for the unique breed of workhorse recruitment typically attracts.

But I’m going to hedge my bets on the fact you aren’t as ‘rammed’ as you think you are.

No matter how much you actually do, having flexibility over your hours goes a long way.

This is something we talk about quite a bit at Hunted.

Usually in the context of ‘nice-to-have perks’ when representing certain brands. Or with frustration that more haven’t taken it up as policy.

Flexible working’s a slightly nebulous term that refers to work carried out outside a conventional 8 to 6 (or 9 to 5 if you have a civilian job).

It’s 4 day weeks.

Glide time.

Remote working.

Job sharing.

Sabbaticals.

All the good stuff you read about, but rarely get to experience.

It’s a bit of an alien concept to many an agency recruiter. And I feel like there’s a reluctance to give even a small amount of ground when it comes to Recruiters and their schedules.

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The time you spend doing what you do, has value. Financial value. And competition’s usually quite fierce.

So when faced with the question, “Would you drop one day of work a week?”, most recruiters can’t fathom it. And the question’s not entertained.

Instead of asking “Could you do your job in four days?” we should be asking “Would you?”

Because you absolutely would. You’d make it work. You’d eliminate 20% of the trivial stuff you do, gun it over the remaining 80% and while I obviously can’t say for certain, I highly doubt you’d let your output drop.

You’d just have an extra day a week free.

Or hour a day. Or day from home.

Flexible working’s a different beast depending on the company, the role, the individual.

I used to work in Life Science recruitment, where flexible working’s practically the norm for some roles.

It’s quite common for Clinical Research Associates to not work a few days a week if the project they’re on doesn’t need it.

And particularly if you’re running global trials, you don’t need to be in the office. Because it’ll likely be just you in there, on hold to 27 different sites around the world, each with their own timezone.

Might as well do that from the kitchen table, no?

It’s less common in other industries. Although that’s changing. Gradually.

I think people are realising flexible working’s not just for parents. I only mention mums and dads off the bat because I’m aware that’s the stereotype.

Not only is it an unkind stereotype, it’s also fundamentally untrue.

Most flexible working arrangements are for the mid-senior level hires. People fed up of clock watching from 8 to 6. Those with “portfolio careers”: side hustles and multiple streams of income.

People with care commitments. People who want to spend their Friday afternoon riding a horse through a meadow instead of sitting at a desk. People with a health condition. Or a care responsibility.

People who’ve looked at their job and said “I don’t need to do this 5 days a week”.

Once companies realise the benefits to their people, their business – including their bottom line – their reputation, and the broader working world, “flexible working” will just be called what it is.

‘Working’.

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Work that’s done when it needs to be done. And not for much longer than it needs to. Imagine that. Then the extra goes back into your personal life. Which, funnily enough, makes you better at the work bit.

Although it’s not always about working less. It’s having the flexibility to work more, when needed. 

One week, you might be hammering the phones for five days. The week after, you might only be needed for three days. Because… recruitment. The point is, no two weeks are the same, and sometimes you need hours at the desk.

You’re going to have to start talking to your clients about flexible working if you aren’t already.

For no other reason than it’s not the only major structural change facing the modern workforce, but it’s good a place as any to start. Your clients may even thank you for it. Your candidates certainly will.

Say Client A and Client B are both after Candidate C, and one of them offers flexibility. Which do you think’s the more attractive option for them to take?

Think about your clients cherishing flexibility as a concept. What that would do to their employer brand? Their bottom line? Yours? Or the talent pools you’re able to access?

More diverse hiring’s one of the main topics du jour in recruitment at the moment. It’s a route to a better reputation for hiring companies. It means their teams are less likely to be burned out, more productive, and more valuable. In essence: better.

So flexible working won’t just help you find people. It’ll help your clients attract talent, retain them, and reap the rewards that follow.

In my opinion, flexible working’s intrinsically linked to a progressive set of perks and benefits that will soon define the modern working experience. Wellness initiatives. Dogs everywhere. Gym membership, no KPIs, unlimited holiday.

The workplace is changing.

It’ll take cultural change to properly unhook 5 x 10+ hour days out of our systems. Remember that ‘dress down’ was an alien concept until relatively recently.

And at the moment it’s down to bold firms who see the value in and want to make life easier for their teams. None more so than the startup space at the moment. Who, by nature, will be doing things differently.

Startups are likely to be more modern in their approach, considerate of people’s needs, and agile when it comes to the type of roles they need filling.

As a recruiter, you’ve arguably got more of an opportunity to add value to newer businesses. The placements you make will have an impact on the culture, and subsequently the growth of that company.

The big dogs hopefully won’t be too far behind. But for the time being, startups are much more receptive to flexible working. Chiefly because it can save them a ton of money.

But they’re also more receptive to a Recruiter’s guidance. They’re likely to invest more time in building relationships, which leads to more business, referrals, etcetera.

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Trapeze HR fill flexible roles, with flexible working clients, and they themselves work flexibly. I caught up with Harriet Lavender and Jane Middleton to ask why everyone’s talking about flex at the moment:

“Knowing it’s on offer from a business of choice and seeing they’re progressive is an attractive proposition for talent.”

“Show us a role that can’t be worked flexibly.”

“Spreading your offering to include those who wish to work in a more agile and flexible way means you’re opening your market up to a wider talent pool. This works well if clients can’t find the best talent for typical 9 to 5 opportunities.”

“The offer of flexibility’s a big draw for candidates. And you’ll find talent’s often open to lateral moves if they’ll get that flex. Which is highly compelling for any business seeking an experienced HR professional with both clout AND credentials.”

“Not to mention, the cost of hire is also highly desirable due to the pro-rated salary.”

Harriet and Jane work with SMEs and start-ups – high growth businesses – who might not have the key fundamentals in place, but are actively seeking People and HR professionals to scope out, scale, and embed HR frameworks.

Most of these companies can’t afford to hire someone on £100K for five days a week. But you’ll find they can make it work, at a fraction of the cost. If say, your HR Director’s only needed for 3 days (60% of the week), your client’s just saved 40% on the candidate’s salary.

“Lots of ‘bang for our buck’ as one client called it.”

Flexible recruitment opens doors to more creative hiring. For instance, spreading budget across two hires: an HR Director two days a week and an Internal Recruiter for three.

Two hires; one person’s salary.

And because each candidate’s unique – from their skillset and expertise to availability and working preferences – you’re better placed to guide your clients on how to and who to hire for the perfect fit.

How much value would your clients get out of that kind of arrangement? How much more valuable would you be to them, if you’d engineered it?

Flexible working’s not going away. And it should be, or certainly could be, part of your job to see that happen for your clients.

And if you want to work flexibly, to work exclusively with flexible clients, and to become known in your market as the Recruiter to go to for flexible work, flex your clicking muscles and test them out on this here link.

At the time of writing, Trapeze HR are hiring a Finance Consultant and a Head of Interim. Thanks to Harriet and Jane for their time and insight in putting this piece together.