Flexibility will be the key to employee retention

The UK faces a crisis in the workforce as record numbers of people leave employment and increasing levels of economic inactivity make the cost-of-living crisis even more challenging for the most vulnerable people.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the labour market and the way we approach work has shifted to an extent previously unimaginable, most notably through the adoption and understanding of flexible working and its associated benefits.

With an economy stalling through record levels of inactivity and long-term illness, it makes sense for many businesses to take the lead in implementing flexible working to accommodate those who cannot work at present while realising the productivity benefits that can result from it.

Employees demand flexibility

A CIPD report in May this year found that 4 million people have changed careers due to a lack of flexibility at work, while an estimated 2 million people have left a job in the last year alone because of inflexible working arrangements.

The findings underscore the desire for UK workers to have flexible working arrangements which have become a deal breaker for some who have become accustomed to a ‘better’ work life balance in the wake of the pandemic.

With inflation, interest rates rises and a cost-of-living crisis all at the forefront of businesses’ minds, it is important that they consider strategies that do not add an employee exodus on to their list of challenges to face in the next 12 to 18 months.


Whilst the pandemic drove the move for many to work flexibly, whether that be through remote working or changes in working hours, it cannot be underestimated that for a large percentage of the workforce, flexible working is a necessity rather than a preference.

The CIPD’s report highlights that employees with disabilities or long-term health conditions are considerably more likely to leave a job (21%) or switch careers (32%) due to the lack of flexible working opportunities.

With economic inactivity rising, it is vital for businesses and the wider economy to tap into the wider talent pool and make flexible working provisions available for those who are willing to work but are restricted by a lack of workplace support programmes that truly accommodates their needs.

Diversity in the workforce is not just beneficial for employees that were previously unable to work but also brings a host of benefits to the businesses themselves. A diverse workforce has been shown to increase productivity and reduce staff turnover due to a more positive, inclusive culture.

Similarly, those with varying life experiences and diverse backgrounds promote a culture with better decision making, greater innovation and higher creativity.

If businesses aren’t introducing or refreshing appropriate support measures for employees with a range of different circumstances and lived experiences, business and economic recovery will remain sluggish.

How can it be implemented?

Flexible working can be implemented for employees in varying ways. Remote working is something that many office-based industries have become accustomed to from the COVID-19 lockdown. No longer is flexible working available only in a few industries and job roles but the wider economy has embraced it. Managed days in which employees are allowed to work from home, or in fact anywhere where they can do their job to the best ability, should be a consideration for businesses wishing to access the widest possible talent pool and in turn reap the commercial rewards.

Flexible working hours can also attract people who have family or caring commitments and are unable to work the traditional 9 to 5 working pattern. These strategies do not just allow businesses to access a wide talent pool but also ensure employees are working at maximum productivity levels through a culture of inclusion and support.

Whilst we face tough economic circumstances for both individuals and businesses, it is important that organisations understand the demand for flexible working arrangements and how this directly impacts their available workforce and their bottom line. Productivity, innovation and creativity will be vital to businesses if they are to weather the economic storm the UK is currently facing.