Written by Alex Fleming - Managing Director at Adecco Retail

Flexible working practices are often discussed (more so than ever these days) but how many people actually make use of them?

According to recent research from the Trades Union Congress (TUC), more than 1.5 million people in the UK now work from home − an increase of nearly 20% (241,000) in the last decade. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not the younger generation driving this move, but rather workers in their 40s and 50s − particularly women.

It is however worth putting these figures into context: 1.5 million people equates to around 0.5% of the total UK workforce, so while the increase represents a shift in attitude towards working patterns, this level of flexibility is still far from widespread. So while the TUC refers to the rise as a success, Timewise says the figure is actually a sign of a ‘broken’ jobs market.

Lynn Rattigan, EY’s Chief Operating Officer for the UK and Ireland, says: “The needs of the UK’s workforce are changing rapidly and employers need to keep up – not only to support their own business growth, but indeed the competitiveness of the UK economy.

“There is a huge pool of experienced and highly skilled talent that companies are missing out on simply because they fail to mention, from the outset on their job advertisements, that they are open to flexibility.”

Rattigan’s argument carries significant weight when we consider that, according to the Institute for Inertia at Sheffield University, 7 million people in the UK would rather work from home than receive a pay rise. And if work/life balance has in fact become more valuable to employees than fiscal remuneration, employers would do well to take note and start building such arrangements into contracts and job descriptions from the outset.

Alex Fleming says:
"Working from home may not be viable in every situation, but in jobs where home working is feasible, the practice can be extremely valuable. Not only is productivity often improved, but companies are able to access a pool of talent that may otherwise have been out of reach.rdquo;