You wanted to find a flexible job because you just had a baby/need to care for aging parents/are looking for part-time work. But if you have or need a flexible job and find that, despite your skills and qualifications, you’re not able to make ends meet, you’re not alone. 

A new study out of the United Kingdom, “How Flexible Hiring Could Improve Business Performance and Living Standards,” by flexible working group Timewise and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reports that nearly two million workers (and highly-qualified workers at that) are either out of work or ‘trapped’ in low-skilled (and low-paying) jobs because too many employers refuse to offer flexible job options. In short, these workers are not meeting their earnings potential—and may not be able to due to a lack of work flexibility.

And if that weren’t sobering enough, consider this: the study found that around 200,000 of these workers were living in poverty although they had a strong skill set that could garner them a higher salary. Why are they receiving such low wages? They needed a job that offered some sort of flexibility, either in scheduling or the ability to work remotely.

The study found that those seeking flexible work—and stuck in minimum wage jobs—were parents, caregivers, older workers, and those with disabilities. The reason: quality part-time work wasn’t readily available, causing workers who could earn more to accept a smaller salary in exchange for work flexibility. Around seven unemployed people were seeking every quality flexible job, compared with one for every quality full-time post, said the report. And, not shockingly, women were the ones who were hit the hardest: it’s estimated that 4.6 million women working part time did not want a full-time job, as compared to 1 million men.

A large portion of the blame lies with employers, who are (still) reticent to offer flexible working options to their employees. Further impacting the problem is the fact that they are even less likely to advertise if a position has work flex already built into it (in the form of telecommuting, part-time work, job sharing, a compressed workweek, etc). Only 6.2 percent of quality jobs are advertised with flexible work options, the study found.

It’s clear that workers who are desperate for flexible work options are forced to accept lower-paying positions so that they can find their work-life balance.

But really, it’s companies that are losing when they don’t implement a flexible work program into their policies and practices. As can be plainly seen, workers want flex, and to get it, even the most qualified candidates would rather sacrifice a salary that accurately reflects their work experiences, skill set and education. While some might assume that it is the workers who bear the brunt of this inflexible corporate mindset, it is truly the companies who stand to suffer in the end. Without a flexible work program, companies are forced to choose from a smaller pool of potentially under-qualified job candidates who might, in the end, leave their in-office positions anyway when they find similar jobs that do offer remote work options.

Not only does hiring for a flexible job greatly increase the caliber of the job candidates who apply for the position, but studies have shown time and time again that flex workers are more productive, as well as more loyal to, and frankly, happier with their employers. 

It seems, then, that when a company doesn’t offer flexible working options, both employers and employees are the ones who truly pay the price.

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