Flexibility in the Workplace

November 26, 2014 Published by

The lack of flexibility in the workplace is a common issue faced by working parents leading to stress, worry and often a demoralised employee. These problems often arise after the arrival of a new baby, when parents return to work after paternity or maternity leave, after adoption or when there is a change in family circumstances.

Here we take a look at these issues in more detail and how, with a bit of thought, you can overcome them.

Changing Hours

Many working parents find they need full time wages with part-time hours to fit around childcare or a partner’s job so flexibility during the working day is important. There are many ways to change working patterns from a typical nine-to-five day to something more suitable for your family.

  • Compressing hours into fewer days is one option, starting earlier and leaving later to put in full time hours whilst freeing up an extra day at home.
  • Shorter working days, for example by spreading hours over six days and leaving early afternoon, would mean parents were at home to share a meal with their family without losing out financially.
  • Making a Flexible Working Request can seem formal and daunting but taking the time to plan your requests and presenting how they are good for the business will lead to success.
  • Showing your employer you can see things from their viewpoint makes a big difference and once accepted they will benefit from retaining experienced staff and keeping them happy with high morale.

Job sharing & Home Working

Part time hours may suit your situation best but following your chosen career can prove difficult if your role is typically suited to a full time employee. Before looking elsewhere for a new job, working parents should consider all the options such as job sharing or working from home.

  • Whilst fairly uncommon, many employers would benefit immensely from a job sharing set up. Having two members of staff that work well together means they have suitable holiday or sickness cover without extra training. Their employees would both be happy and well rested, working hard all week without any reduction in productivity as the week goes on. Don’t be afraid to ask whether this could work for you.
  • Similarly working from home isn’t an option for all but many jobs have the potential for some working from home to be possible. If this could work for you then put forward your ideas to your colleagues and the boss and you may be pleasantly surprised by the response.

Time Off

One of the biggest issues working parents face with flexibility in the workplace is the lack of support for emergency time off. Should your child be ill, taking time off to care for them can lead to a lot of stress, worry and arguments over which parent misses work this time.

More and more employers are writing contracts which include provisions for emergency time off but if yours doesn’t then it is worth broaching the subject. Sit down with your manager for an informal chat and put a plan in place. Whether you use holiday time or make up the hours later in the week, knowing there is an agreement in place can be a weight off your shoulders.

Making the effort to help out colleagues and earn favours will also mean that should you need time off at short notice they are happy to stand in and not resent covering your absence.


Flexibility issues in the workplace are one of the top problems working parents face and often lead to demotions, role changes or one parent putting their career completely on hold.

Remember that with some effort and working together with employers, there is likely to be a solution to any troubles that arise. Face them head on, work out a way to resolve them and leave the anxiety behind for a happier working life.



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This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer

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