Rhiannon Williams, Managing Director of strategic PR and Communications agency Zen Communications, explains how there is an untapped demographic desperate to get back into work, but who are unable to because they need more flexibility than the standard nine-to-five model allows
Traditional nine-to-five working is archaic at best. Covid-19 highlighted this like never before with around a million workers leaving their employment and re-evaluating their work-life balance. As a result, the UK is experiencing a record high in job vacancies that employers just cannot fill. And many, including senior politicians, are campaigning for the over 50s - dubbed the ‘Covid retirees’ - to return to work and help our economy recover, citing enhanced flexibility as a way to entice them.
However, there exists an even greater core demographic within our communities which is being massively overlooked, and which possesses a wealth of experience, energy and expertise that could be invaluable to our economic viability and growth. There are thousands of mums, dads, and carers out there desperate to get back into work, but who are unable to simply because they need more flexibility.
It’s 2023, yet parents are still having to choose between a career and children, because the constraints of traditional employment hours simply don’t work for their families.
A new national report into the childcare crisis by charity Pregnant Then Screwed revealed a staggering 76% of mothers who pay for childcare - let that sink in for a moment - that’s three in four mothers - say it no longer makes financial sense for them to work, with one in four saying the cost is now over 75% of their take-home pay.
Putting this further into perspective, the Childcare Survey 2023, conducted by charity Coram Family and Childcare, found the average annual cost of a full-time nursery place for a child under three in Great Britain is now almost £15,000. For one child. Yet parents have to pay, because they need this childcare to be able to work the traditional nine-to-five hours most employers require.
At Zen, we’re staunch opponents of this hugely antiquated way of working. Why can’t individuals choose to drive forward successful careers, not lose all their hard-earned income to childcare, still be fabulous parents, and even take time out for their own self-care or hobbies?
We’re continually looking for ways to evolve and encourage a better life/work balance (in that order), and when Covid-19 hit, we saw a unique opportunity to really push the boundaries. So, on June 1st 2020 we officially abolished the working week.
We now adopt a totally flexible approach, whereby our team is actively encouraged to work its hours to suit their individual lifestyles, with the autonomy to make decisions on when and where they work. And this wasn’t just a ‘right thing to do’ decision - we based it on the latest science around performance which points to natural energy and focus cycles that we all run throughout the day.
We’re proud to have completely re-written the rulebook and revolutionised the way we do business. By adopting a genuine flexible working policy we have truly empowered our team to stay well, be happy, and work even more productively. The majority of our team are parents to young children, and our approach ensures they don’t miss out on those all-important events and milestones. Aside from us as parents having the opportunity to always be present at sports days, parents’ evenings, and nativity plays - we’re all individuals with duties, interests, and desires outside of our careers.
So many incredibly knowledgeable and experienced people are overlooked simply for requesting flexibility in their hours. They have the potential to bring outstanding talent to the table, yet they’re not being given the opportunity to return to careers they love. Instead, they’re forced to either accept unemployment or carry out menial jobs that don’t match their skillsets because they just can’t make it work.
There is a vast pool of highly-trained, experienced and resourceful individuals out there - ready, willing, and eager to work - if true flexible working was an option to allow them to continue their careers and nurture a family. Who doesn’t love a Win:Win? By flipping the traditional working approach on its head, we’ve been able to attract (and retain) exceptionally skilled individuals - meaning our team isn’t just happier than ever - but stronger, more productive, and more loyal too.
Isn’t it high time organisations re-thought their approaches in order to attract this core demographic of exceptional talent and bring real, tangible benefits to all - their teams, their clients, and their business?”