UK workers ready to take advantage of new flexible working laws

A new study indicates that businesses should prepare for an influx of flexible working requests as over half (55%) of employees plan to apply for new flexible working arrangements following the introduction of the Flexible Working Bill in the UK this weekend.

The legislation, effective from April 6, allows employees to request flexible working from their first day, reducing the previous six-month requirement. This is despite 74% of employees already experiencing some level of flexible work arrangements.

Conducted by Slack, the research surveyed 1,000 UK desk workers to gauge the potential impact of these changes on businesses and understand employee expectations. Currently, a significant portion of UK employees work from home (56%), enjoy flexible workdays (54%), or have a four-day workweek (30%). However, 25% still lack access to flexible working options.

The findings suggest that flexible working is believed to enhance productivity (80%) and accelerate company growth (74%). Yet, employers' reluctance often stems from fears of reduced productivity and quality of work, each cited by 17% of employees. Moreover, flexible working policies significantly influence job choices, with 70% of workers more inclined to consider a job offer if it includes flexible working arrangements, a figure that rises to 76% among 18-34-year-olds.

Although 78% of managers are aware of what the Flexible Working Bill entails for their organisations, 57% are apprehensive about managing an expected rise in flexible working requests. Remarkably, 72% of businesses have not yet communicated the new regulations to their employees, highlighting a gap in proactive engagement on this issue.

Right now, employees are most comfortable making a request for the following:

  • Flexible hours (76%)
  • Work from home (70%)
  • Compressed hours (65%)

The study also reveals employees least comfortable requesting:

  • Work outside of the UK (45%)
  • Job sharing (40%)
  • Work a four-day week (33%)

Flexible working - whether businesses are currently offering it already or not - need not be a worry if organisations have the right tools and processes to enable effective alignment, information sharing and asynchronous work. According to the majority of workers (83%), technology is an enabler of productive flexible working - rising to 95% for employees who work from home. Almost three quarters (73%) say flexible working is possible thanks to communication and collaboration tools that help enable synchronous and asynchronous work, and help reduce the need for meetings. The data also reveals more than 2 in 5 (40%) of companies are using AI to support flexible working by using it to improve productivity and eliminate labour intensive tasks, like finding and recapping information.

Chris Mills, Global Head of Customer Success at Slack said: “The way we work, and employees’ expectations about work, have fundamentally changed over the past few years and flexibility is a key part of that. The research shows it’s an important consideration for people today, and the Flexible Working Bill has brought it back into focus for employees and management. Success hinges on more than just granting employees the freedom to work when and where they want. It requires creating intentional in-person moments alongside thoughtful approaches to technology that enables seamless collaboration, connection and access to information.

“Businesses are right to look at AI as helping in this area as well - we’re already seeing customers save 97 minutes a week on average using Slack AI - which is time that can be deployed elsewhere or unlock greater flexibility.”