Diverse employees and £40bn: the gains of flexible working

Flexible working means greater employment access for disabled talent and more

Flexible working, including homeworking and flexible hours, could diversify the British workforce, giving the disabled, caregivers, and those from rural locations greater employment opportunities and the economy a boost, according to a new study.

Flexible working is increasingly discussed amid the ‘great reshuffle’ as staff leave their roles in search of ones that offer greater flexibility and purpose. Research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) commissioned by LinkedIn has discovered that flexible working makes economic sense too and could add £40 billion to UK GDP.

The study found that flexible working could empower around 600,000 people living with disabilities with employment opportunities, adding £20.7 billion to the UK economy. About 284,000 could benefit from remote working for parents with dependent children, boosting the economy by £10.6bn. Furthermore, around 306,000 informal adult carers and 104,000 from rural locations could add £6bn and £2.9bn to the UK economy respectively.

Collectively, flexible working could empower some 1.3 million people in the UK into employment who were previously unable to work full-time in an office – a boon to personal economic health, mental health and the wider economy too.

While the positive benefits of flexible working are clear, what about implementation? According to the same LinkedIn study, a majority (86%) of employers in the UK say the pandemic has triggered a “rethink” of flexible and remote working, suggesting that most UK companies are on board with the idea for the long-term.

However, firms should be aware of potential inequality issues in hybrid workplaces regarding visibility bias and ensure office-based workers don’t get preferential treatment compared to remote or hybrid workers.

If a majority of firms embrace this style with equity in mind, groups that were underrepresented in office environments due to accessibility issues will now have a greater pick of job opportunities, while employers can access a wider talent pool too.

One of these many firms already embracing flexible working is LinkedIn itself, by allowing the workforce to decide what ‘works’ best for them.

In an open letter on LinkedIn, CEO Ryan Roslansky said: “We trust each other to do our best work where it works best for us and our teams. We’ve learned that every individual and every team works differently, so we’re moving away from a one-size-fits-all policy.

“We’re embracing flexibility with both hybrid and remote roles, expecting more of us to be remote than pre-Covid and removing the expectation of being in the office 50% of the time; 87% of our team told us they’d like to be in the office sometimes, so we’re continuing to invest in amazing workplaces for everyday work and those times when our teams come together.”

Commenting on the LinkedIn research, Nina Skero, Chief Executive at CEBR, said: “Our analysis highlights the enormous potential hybrid working arrangements hold for inclusivity in the UK labour market. The hybrid office model will, by no means, remove all the structural barriers faced by the highlighted demographic groups. Nonetheless, it does provide optimism for a more inclusive workforce. Realising this potential comes with its own challenges, however, and the onus falls on businesses to take the initiative to ensure that inclusivity forms a key part of their agenda.”

LinkedIn Changemaker and disability inclusion consultant Martyn Sibley said: “Disabled people face many barriers in daily life. Workplace barriers are the most disabling for two reasons – because work provides us with financial independence and is also fulfilling mentally.

“Flexible working can help remove some of these barriers and create new employment opportunities, which is extremely positive for disabled people, employers, and society as a whole. As companies consider what the future of work looks like, I’m hopeful that they will use this moment to redesign work to make it more inclusive for all.”

In this article, you learned that:

  • Flexible working could add some £40 billion to UK GDP.
  • In the UK, 600,000 people with disabilities could benefit from flexible working, adding £20.7bn to the UK economy.
  • A majority (86%) of employers in the study say COVID-19 has triggered a “rethink” of flexible and remote working, suggesting most organisations are on board with flexible working for the long term.

Rate This: