Two-thirds of employees now have flexible working, new research reveals

New figures show 67% of workers now have some form of flexible working, up from 61% last year and 46% pre-Covid.

Two-thirds of workers in Scotland now benefit from flexible working, new research reveals Getty Images

Two-thirds of workers in Scotland are now benefiting from flexible working, new research has shown, compared to less than half of employees pre-pandemic.

New figures contained in a report by social business Flexibility Works showed 67% of workers in Scotland now have some form of flexible working, up from 61% last year and 46% pre-Covid.

The research, revealed in the firm’s Flex for Life 2024 report, showed about two-fifths (43%) of business leaders and senior managers agreed that greater flexibility in the workplace is being held up by opposition from their peers and senior colleagues.

With 71% of employers believing such practices have benefits for their business – and with more than three-quarters (77%) of those who work flexibly saying they are happier with their work-life balance as a result – the Scottish Government’s fair work minister Gillian Martin said all bosses should look at their practices.

Ms Martin said: “Flexible working is here to stay. This year’s Flex for Life research shows the demand for flexible working has not waned among workers and that many employers recognise the business benefits it can bring.

“In the absence of powers over employment law, the Scottish Government is determined to use the levers at our disposal to promote fair work practices – of which flexible working is key – across Scotland’s labour market.”

The Flex for Life research – which questioned 262 Scottish business leaders and senior managers along with 1,016 workers – also found nearly three-quarters (73%) of employees with flexible working want to stay with their current firm, compared to 58% who do not have this.

Meanwhile, 75% of business leaders said such practices had helped them retain staff, with 71% believing flexible working has reduced sickness and absence rates.

In addition to this, 64% of bosses said it had helped them increase overall productivity in their business and reduce costs.

Ms Martin said: “All employers, public and private, should take on board these findings and look to improve their flexible working offer.

“This can help to attract and retain workers with under-utilised skills and experience, and help those on low incomes access the labour market.”

Nikki Slowey, the co-founder and director of Flexibility Works, said their research showed a “strong consensus among employers and workers that flexible working is good for business and for people”.

She added: “The problem is that some business leaders, who are often highly successful and powerful, are still not willing to look beyond their own preferred ways of working, or the way things have always been done.

“It’s absolutely right to scrutinise flexible working. But the case for flex is stronger than ever and we believe some flexible working is possible in almost every role.

“We’re urging business leaders who still have doubts about flex to look at the evidence inside and outside their organisation before making decisions on how people work, rather than relying on personal preferences and tradition.”

Catherine McWilliam, nations director for the Institute of Directors in Scotland, said many of the “key business challenges, such as how to increase productivity or deal with staff shortages, can be addressed, at least in part, through greater flexible working”.

She added such practices were “not about handing complete control to staff”, saying instead that flexible working is “about finding mutually beneficial and better ways of working for everyone”.

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