It is clear that those who are coming into the world of work now and those who have recently started working would prefer to ditch the traditional 9-5 lifestyle in favour of working multiple jobs and prioritising extra-curricular hobbies.
Research from Powwownow found that 70% of millennials would like flexible working options. This is a stark difference when compared to the over 55 age category, only 47% of which said that they would prefer to work flexible hours. This is supported by a study from Instant Offices who found that the number of freelancers aged 26-29 has risen 66% in the past decade.
Although it is higher within the particular age group, it is not only millennials who find the option of flexible employment more appealing. Three quarters of UK employees said that the option of flexible hours would make a job more attractive.
The desire for flexible employment is particularly pertinent to the financial sector which has a reputation for presenteeism and longer working hours. For some financial firms it is harder to work from home or flexibly as employees are expected to be in the office using trading floor technologies, alongside secure platforms and networks to handle customer data. However, some financial companies are finding ways to accommodate the desire for flexible working.
A study from, work-life balance charity, Working Families, found that, of the top ten employers for flexible working and work-life balance, six were financial services firms: Deloitte, EY, Barclays, Lloyds Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland and American Express. The same research found that only 17% of accounting and finance professionals in Britain work remotely at least once per week, which is just half the UK average.
The reputation that working in the financial industries comes with arduous hours is felt by the employees who work there. Over a third of finance and accounting professionals said they would be uncomfortable even just discussing flexible working with their employer. This presenteeism culture of needing to be at the office outside of dedicated office hours is extremely damaging.
The Sainsbury Centre of Mental Health suggests that presenteeism is an even bigger problem than absenteeism and could lead to poor mental and physical health. Not only does it affect the individual, but also the wider economy. Leading economists, such as Professor Sir Cary Cooper, are saying that presenteeism is costing the economy twice as much absenteeism.
If financial firms want to continue to retain and attract the best talent they need to adapt to the desire of all ages, but especially millennials, to work flexibly. They cannot rely on the promise of big bonuses and pay increases. According to research by Powwownow, nearly a third of UK employees said that they would prefer the option of adaptable working hours as opposed to a pay rise.
Furthermore, HSBC conducted research unveiling that 89 per cent of UK employees believe flexible working is a key motivator to productivity, compared to just 77% who said financial incentives were key. A work-life balance is clearly key for many people when choosing a career. Nearly a fifth of employees said that a poor work-life balance was a top reason for leaving their last job.
Not only are flexible hours attractive to a growing number of people, but research by Robert Half indicates that 60% of HR directors have seen an increase in workforce productivity when flexible working policies have been introduced to a business.
The introduction of flexible hours and freelance work in the financial industries would reduce the stigma that leads to damaging presenteeism, which may look to be driving a business in the short term, but in the long term can lead to burnout and a subsequent decrease in productivity.
The advent of new technology such as video conferencing, remote work emails and document sharing software means that it is easier for employees to work in separate locations and not all from the same office. Financial firms should embrace using these to allow their employees to work flexibly from home.
As well as these, companies should invest in technology that allows them to pay freelancers and highly skilled contract workers with ease. New innovative technology can revolutionise the way that the highly-skilled freelance workforce is paid, by driving down transaction costs that many employers face and introducing daily payments.For freelance workers who are being hired through an agency, transaction fees are a substantial burden.
By using 21st century technology that reduces or eliminates these fees, flexible employees can receive faster payments, making it easier for them to plan their finances and also making freelance work a viable option for the critical mass of society.
With the current payment systems in place, many freelance workers are getting paid incorrect amounts and some are getting paid weeks after they have actually completed the work. This is dissuading people from working flexibly, which is damaging our economy, and is pushing those that do work in a freelance capacity towards debt with many freelancers relying on payday loans to survive in between jobs.
If daily payments were available to freelance workers, both low-skilled workers like taxi drivers and couriers and high-skilled workers such as contractor accountants and financial consultants, it would allow these people to budget with more ease and would make the freelance life a viable option for many more workers.
By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the UK workforce and if the majority of those are looking to work in a freelance capacity then the landscape of how businesses need to work could dramatically change over the next few years. It is in UK businesses’ best interests to address and adapt to the wave of freelance and flexible working in order to attract and retain the best talent.