Generation Flex

With confusion reigning around the true meaning of flexible working and an apparent discrepancy in the access which millennials have to flexible working options in comparison to their older colleagues, we delved deeper into the state of flexible working across the UK. 

In our latest trends research we sought to establish just how flexible the different regions of the UK actually are by asking office workers far and wide about their experiences of flexible working. How does your region stack up against the rest of the UK? 

Below is a selection of the key findings from our research.

East Midlands – Flexible working is coming. The East Midlands has made the most progress on flexible working in the past year.

Of those working in the East Midlands, 35% reported that their employer has no ‘work from home’ policy, the highest percentage in the UK. However 76% also stated that the ability to work flexibly was either fairly or very important to them. There is clearly a void between the wants and needs of the workers in the East Midlands and the businesses employing them.

There is hope though - of all the regions in the UK, the East Midlands has made the most progress in recent years, with 28% of respondents saying that their ability to work flexibly has improved in some way in the last 12 months. If this trend continues the East Midlands could see a big improvement on its current flexibility rating of 6.9.

East of England – Getting it done on company time. Workers in the East of England work comparatively few hours over those contracted.

Office workers in the East of England are working an average of 4.3 hours per week over their contracted hours. This may sound like a lot but it is in fact among the lowest in the UK, where the average is 5.5. The highest is Scotland at almost seven hours per week, a full two and a half hours more than the East of England.

That number could explain the fact that relatively few respondents who have taken up the option of time-in-lieu (24%) as compared to the UK average (32%) and their neighbours in the North East (44%). There is also a UK low percentage of workers who desire this perk at (33%) compared to the UK average (44%) and the Welsh who come in the highest (51%).

London  Feeling judged at work? You’re not imagining it. Londoners most likely to be judged or penalised for working flexibly in UK.

While London scored a 6.8 for flexibility, placing it right in the middle of UK regions, the highest rate of working from home came from London – where a third (32%) claimed they work from home at least once every week, and that their ability to work flexibly has improved in the last 12 months (31%) – the starkest change of any UK region.

Furthermore a huge 65% of office workers in London who have worked, or asked to work flexibly have felt judged or penalised for doing so. Londoners also believe more strongly that other regions that flexible working options are reserved for senior employees and those with families.

Northern Ireland – Home office gathering dust? Irish employees least likely to be able to work from home in UK.

Northern Irish workers enjoy a bit more of a lie-in than their mainland UK counterparts, with the shortest average commute at just 23 minutes. And this set up seems to suit them pretty well, as more than half of Northern Irish commuters (51%) would be unwilling to add to their commute in return for more flexible working options.

Conversely 45% (the highest in the UK) of respondents from NI consider their ability to work flexibly as ‘very important’ as it allows them to balance their work and personal lives. Looking forward there is also appetite for compressed working weeks and career breaks among NI respondents.

North East – On the doorstep. Workers in the North East enjoy among the shortest commutes in the UK and would gladly travel further for the right perks.

The North East enjoys among the easiest commutes in the UK, with just 4% of workers surveyed spending more than an hour getting to work. This compares favourably with London where 37% of workers spend 45 minutes or more getting into the office each day. 

The average commute in the North East is 27 minutes, significantly lower than most other regions of the UK. Unsurprisingly the majority of respondents would be happy to extend their short commute in return for more flexible working options. Unfortunately for those workers the region also has the highest percentage of businesses that do not offer any sort of flexible working option (32%).

North West – To flex or not to flex? Workers in the North West are more likely to work from home, but rated employers in the region low for flexibility.

Alongside London, the North West has the highest proportion for workers who work from home at least one day a week, with one in four exercising this right. However the region scored among the lowest in the UK on how employees rate their employers on flexibility at just 6.4 out of ten, suggesting that working from home does not make up the whole picture.

Those in the North West also want to see companies implement a wide range of flexible working options in the next 5 years; 66% want flexible hours, 50% want compressed work weeks, and 45% would like to see time in lieu. The reasons cited were the ability to balance work with personal life, better job satisfaction and reduced work stress.

Scotland – Working too hard? Scottish employees are clocking up an entire day in overtime every week.

When asked to rank their current employer on a flexibility scale from zero to ten, Scottish businesses came out on top with an average score of 7.2. This is backed up by findings that Scottish businesses are ahead of the curve with offering flexible work options such as flex-time (the ability to choose the start/finish time of the working day) (55%), work from home potions (30%) and compressed work weeks (48%) all of which sit well above the national averages. 

Despite Scotland being ranked as the most flexible region and businesses there widely offering flexible working options, 62% of respondents said that they have felt penalised or judged for working flexibly or even asking to do so.

South East – What flexibility? The South East has been rated the least flexible region in the UK.

The South East of England has been ranked as the least flexible place in the UK, where respondents ranked their current employer’s flexibility at an average of just 6.3. This could be down to the fact that 30% of businesses located in the South East do not offer any kind of flexible working, one of the highest percentages in the UK. 

The region also has among the longest average commute times at close to 40 minutes, while three quarters of workers have never taken benefitted from flexibility options to help them with long commutes and stressful working schedules. This long commute time could be explained by the high number of workers who travel into London each day for work.

South West – The flexible South West. The region has been rated as the most flexible in England.

South West workers have rated their employers as the most flexible in England, only narrowly beaten by the Scots. The rating of 7.1 out of ten is supported by a high uptake of flexible-time, time-in-lieu and working from home options, as well as very few respondents who have felt penalised for working flexibly.

Despite this high rating 28% of employers in the South West do not offer any flexible working options at all. The numbers suggest that there is high satisfaction among those employees who are afforded flexible working options and that employers could reap the benefits by following the example set among fellow South West businesses and introduce some flexible working options.

Wales – Get your priorities right. Flexible working is most important to Welsh employees.

76% of Welsh office workers have said that flexible working is fairly/very important to them which is the highest in the UK where the average came in at 67%. That number rises to 87% when we asked if it was likely to be so in the next five years, above the national average of 74%.

The reasons cited include affording a better work/life balance (75%), improved job satisfaction (50%) and a UK high for being able to live where one desires (37%). The good news for Welsh workers is that 90% believe that their ability to work flexibly has either remained the same or improved in the past year.

West Midlands – Leadership issues? More workers in the West Midlands apportioned blame on senior management for poor flexible working conditions that anywhere else in the UK.

Of all those respondents who rated their employer as a ‘zero – not flexible at all’ the highest proportion were in the West Midland, where 11% selected zero. While this can perhaps be attributed to a few particularly disgruntled employees, the region as a whole scored below average on its offering of every flexible work option we surveyed.

Across the UK more than half (55%) of those respondents who have worked (or asked to work) flexibly have felt judged or penalised for doing so. Of those in the West Midlands who have felt so, almost half stated that this judgement came from company management or senior leadership, far higher than the UK average of 35%.

Yorkshire and the Humber – Not on my watch. Yorkshire office workers most likely to be refused flexible working in UK.

Yorkshire and the Humber has among the lowest proportion of workers who work from home with less than one in ten doing so with any regularity. The region also has the highest number of people who have been refused flexible working at 33%.

When asked about the motivations behind wanting flexible work options, an unusually high number of those in Yorkshire and the Humber responded that it was to reduce work related stress. The 64% who stated this as a reason is particularly high when compared to the neighbouring North East who only chose this 37% of the time, the lowest in the entire UK.

These numbers suggest that there is a clear need for more flexibility in the region and that businesses could benefit from enabling their workforce.

Now that you’ve seen the key findings for your region why not directly compare your region against others in the UK with our interactive heat-map? Alternatively we’ve looked into the generational divide in more detail.

Are you looking to hire?

Find the right candidate today.

Submit a job spec

Webinars & events

Access our free webinars and events.

Join or watch on-demand

Get in touch