The UK is in the middle of a flexible working revolution. But while flexible working is on the rise for a large portion of the UK’s workforce, there’s a vital segment that is being left out in the cold and getting a raw deal when it comes to opening up greater flexibility in their work schedules.
And that’s the country’s shift workers. These are the people that get the product you ordered at 9 am on your desk by the end of the day; that fuel you with coffee every morning; that gets you from A to B. In short, these are the people that work to keep the UK working.
And yet, for too long, these workers have been relegated to second place when it comes to making working lives better, simpler and more enjoyable. From investment in research through to advances in technology, the primary focus has been on ‘white collar’ professionals in ‘typical’ careers – and how to give them greater flexibility, help them perform better in their jobs and make their lives easier.
A raw deal
And Quinyx has the data to prove it. Our research Work that Keeps the UK Working – which polled 2,000 UK workers to gauge attitudes towards flexible working – found shift workers are twice as likely to have to miss important occasions like birthdays or weddings because of work, and one in five have had to ditch personal interests and hobbies due to their inflexible schedule.
It, therefore, comes as no surprise that twice as many shift workers than non-shift workers claim a lack of flexibility is having a negative impact on their health and wellbeing (14% vs 7%), or that 20% of shift workers feel their employer doesn’t care about their life and well-being outside of work.
And it’s not just shift workers that are struggling with demanding, inflexible schedules, but their families too. Our research found one in five shift workers find it difficult to manage childcare responsibilities alongside work, while one in four say their working hours mean they don’t get to spend enough time with family.
It’s staggering to see that despite so many changes in the nature of work, and with wider access to new technology to make scheduling easier, this still hasn’t translated into equal opportunities for everyone, no matter their working pattern.
Missing out on family moments and dropping extra-curricular interests is only going to lead to unhappy workers, which is ineffective from a business perspective, and disappointing from a personal one. Employers need to understand that flexible working can work for them and their workforce – it isn’t just limited to office workers with set schedules.
A shift in focus towards a more flexible future
At Quinyx we know that a happier workforce is a more productive one – and this applies whether you work a 9-5 office job or a shop floor shift job. But why isn’t it the norm for all segments of the workforce?
The problem is that it still has a bad reputation. We’re stuck in an impasse in which employers associate flexible working with spiraling costs and scheduling nightmares – they see a trade-off between flexibility and financial performance.
But this is far from the truth. With the right tools and technologies in place, flexible working can be easy. By cutting down admin and allowing business leaders and employees to collaborate on a schedule that works for everyone, solutions like smart workforce technology can improve productivity, save time, reduce costs and boost employee happiness.
With Brexit closing in, bringing with it all kinds of questions around how the UK will keep the engine running as access to labor is restricted, it’s never been more critical for the UK’s workforce to be happy, engaged and productive. For this to happen, we need employers to put flexible working to the top of the agenda – and ensure equal access for all members of their workforce.
About the author: Quinyx was founded in 2005 by CEO Erik Fjellborg after a summer spent working at McDonald’s. After witnessing how difficult it can be for managers to sort shifts manually, Erik built one of the world’s first fully web-based Workforce Management solutions to do the heavy lifting. McDonald’s loved Erik’s solution and became Quinyx’s first customer.