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The importance of flexible working for a healthier workforce.10th October 2019 Employment
So, it turns out it’s not actually bending over backwards? – The importance of flexible working for a healthier workforce. On World Mental Health Day 2019, trainee solicitor Ruth Pearson looks at how flexible working can be a no brainer, and good for business as well as mental well being.
Most people at some point in their life will experience mental health issues or know someone close to them who has. Most people (certainly millennials) will now be working until they are 67 years of age, unless they are lucky enough to win the lottery and take early retirement in Barbados. The Labour Force Survey of self-reported work-related ill-health and workplace injuries published by the Health and Safety Executive reports that 15.4 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18. 44% of all work-related ill health cases were attributable to stress, depression or anxiety (and the total number of people affected by the same was 595,000). It is clear, and probably was prior to the writing of this blog, that the issue of mental ill health at work is a prevalent one, which requires more than lip service.
Sometimes life hits certain people a little (or a lot) harder than others. People are fighting all kinds of battles with their internal demons every day and are often expected to continue to go about their day in the same way as they do when they are feeling their ‘best self’. Everyone has different requirements and ways in which they find they work better. Some people work best in the morning, others in the evening. Some prefer to work fewer days with longer hours and some quite the opposite. Flexible working is about taking your own situation and considering what would make it a more manageable and productive environment for you, so that whether you are having one of those days or indeed many of those days, or wish to prevent ‘those days’ from happening altogether (where possible), there is a structure in place which allows you to feel as comfortable and well supported as possible. Workplace flexibility may come in all shapes and sizes, as the phrase suggests. The idea of course, is to have a situation that is right for you, whether that be leaving work a little earlier every Wednesday to attend a therapy session, the ad hoc ability to work from home, working amended hours, the list goes on. The point is, that it is supposed to suit the needs of the person who requires it.
Flexible working centres on mutual trust and respect between an employer and employee. Entrusting those who make decisions about the way they want to work and the way they work best can have a huge impact on mental wellbeing and productivity. It is not difficult to comprehend that a person who has a work environment and set up which makes them feel comfortable and supported would mean that they take less sickness absence.
All employees are entitled to make a request for flexible working in writing to their employer and have the right to have this considered within three months of the request, provided that they have not made another request within the same 12 month period and have been employed for a minimum of 26 weeks. Some employers will still consider those with less than 26 weeks service. The ‘one size fits all’ approach does not work for everyone (as I’m sure anyone who has bought clothes in the 21st century will appreciate). Flexible working offers a practical solution for what shouldn’t really be a problem in the first place – supporting mental well-being in the work place.