Flexible Working – is it CSR? What’s the Social Impact?
Flexible working might not be considered a classic Social Responsibility issue. Businesses who have embraced a culture of flexible working are seeing improvements in staff retention, increased productivity and attracting talent, as potential employees see its advantages.
Businesses for whom it’s relevant have the added advantage of potentially being able to extend opening hours without increasing staffing costs. There are some disadvantages, as line management may become more complex, but the vast majority of organisations who’ve tried it wouldn’t choose to return to more prescriptive practices.
Advantages for employees include cost savings if working from home, and the ability to avoid the rush hour, but what is less considered is the ability this provides those with caring commitments to maintain or enter employment.
Nearly one in eight workers is an unpaid carer, that’s 4.27 million people in the UK.
We tend to think of unpaid carers as being parents with young children. As self-employed and the owner of a young child, the 8.50am/3.15pm drop off/pick up causes an inordinate amount of stress. But I can do it, because I’m self-employed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a significant number of similar business start-ups are stimulated by a rigid school run and lack of wrap around care.
However, there are a growing number of people who are unpaid carers for family members who have long term and full time caring needs. With over 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today and a rapidly ageing population, it’s estimated that by 2012 there will be over one million people with the condition. Combined with other physical, learning and mental disabilities, there are over half a million people in this country who are full time carers, and who would like to work but whose caring commitments won’t let them.
Think about the skills, knowledge and ability that could benefit the workplace if flexible approaches enabled these people to work. Think about the reduction in isolation for a carer whose only daily interaction is possibly with someone with limited communication abilities.
Do you really need rigid working hours in the office? If skills shortages are an issue for you, start thinking creatively. And yes, it is most definitely CSR and socially impactful!