5am is the new 9am for flexible working parents

New laws are giving parents the power to start their working day when it suits them. Are you ready for the early dawn of flexible work?

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Just a few days ago, the UK implemented a new flexible working law that empowers employees to request flexible working arrangements from “day one” of their employment. 

Employers are now legally obliged to seriously consider these requests and explore ways to make them work. This marks a significant shift from a previous ethos, where flexible working options were often seen as a privilege, rather than a right. 

Fueled by the change and the growing desire for work-life balance, many working parents may soon be trading their commutes for quiet, pre-dawn work sessions that could begin as early as 5am.

Reclaiming the day with a 5am start

The idea of joining the 5am club might sound extreme, but for many parents, this early start offers a unique opportunity.  Many are already awake at this hour, attending to children’s needs or simply unable to sleep in. In the early hours, they can tackle work before the demands of family life take hold, and finish up the working day in the early afternoon to be ready for that next round of childcare.

People management platform Employment Hero anticipates a surge in requests for flexible working, particularly from the UK’s 13 million working parents as it’s something already observed within its own business.

CEO of Employment Hero Ben Thompson claims that 5am is evolving into the new 9am. He states: 

“The traditional 9-5 workday no longer meets the needs of our team, especially parents. We’ve observed a significant shift among parents, who are opting to begin work as early as 5am, so they can tackle work before attending to their children’s school or childcare commitments around 9am. This early start allows them the flexibility to wrap up work earlier in the afternoon, prioritising family time and avoiding the rush to complete tasks after picking up their children.”

Lucy Sharp, full-time employee at Employment Hero

Lucy is just one parent embracing this new normal. She writes:

“Juggling full-time work as a mum of two is hard. If I had to manage 9-5 office hours alongside a commute, childcare expenses, school runs and after-school clubs, then full-time employment would literally be impossible for me. 

“I feel very lucky that I’m encouraged to embrace flexible working. Being able to choose my own hours means I feel valued, and it gives me freedom to enjoy those little but important moments with my kids.”

This success story highlights a key takeaway: flexible working isn’t just about presenteeism; it’s about empowering employees to work when they are most productive. For parents, that might be the quiet solitude of the early morning.  For others, it might be focused work sessions in the evening. Using this flexibility, companies can tap into the full potential of their workforce and foster a happier, more engaged employee base.

The future of work

The new flexible working law is likely to act as a catalyst for change, empowering employees and challenging traditional work structures.

Exclusive research conducted by Startups at the end of 2023 surveyed 546 business leaders in the UK. The report revealed a significant shift towards increased flexibility in UK workplaces for 2024, with a significant portion embracing flexible arrangements that would likely appeal to working parents. 

The most popular option is the ability to work remotely for a greater number of days (14%), followed closely by the introduction of flexi-time (11%) and the option to work from anywhere (11%). 

Workplace model being introduced in 2024% of respondents
Increasing number of days staff can work remotely14%
Introducing a four-day work week12%
Introducing flexi-time11%
Allowing staff to work from anywhere11%
Hiring for more part-time roles3%
Increasing staff number of days in the office6%
No changes planned44%

For working parents, flexible work schedules can feel like a game-changer. However, the widespread adoption of early morning work schedules also presents potential challenges.  

  • Employers will need to adapt to accommodate this shift, potentially requiring adjustments to meeting times and communication protocols.
  • ‘Core hours’ may need to be established when staff are expected to be available for meetings; for instance, between 10am-12pm and 2pm-3pm.  

Additionally, the long-term impact on employee health and productivity, particularly with such early starts, needs further exploration.

Flexible work can go hand-in-hand with growth

The debate on whether flexible working hours are “good or bad” can be put to bed. They’re here to stay, one way or the other. Now is the time for employers to focus on fostering a culture of productivity and innovation that caters to individual needs.  

The new flexible working regulations aren’t just about convenience for employees. Employment Hero has observed a direct correlation between flexible work arrangements and increased productivity. 

Since adopting a fully remote model with flexible hours, they’ve also seen a fivefold increase in headcount, a nearly sevenfold revenue jump, and a staggering £1.7 billion valuation boost. While none of the above might be directly attributable to embracing flexible hours, it’s clear that doing so hasn’t held back the company’s success.

“We’re living proof that flexibility is a win-win,” Thompson concludes.  “The debate about flexible hours should move beyond mere convenience. It’s about empowering employees to be their most productive and fulfilled selves at work.”

The option of a 5am workday for parents isn’t a sign of an always-on culture, but rather a credit to the new flexible working arrangements

With these new working patterns, both employees and employers can reap the benefits: increased productivity, happier employees, reduced pressures around childcare, and ultimately, a more successful business. 

Written by:
Stephanie Lennox is the resident funding & finance expert at Startups: A successful startup founder in her own right, 2x bestselling author and business strategist, she covers everything from business grants and loans to venture capital and angel investing. With over 14 years of hands-on experience in the startup industry, Stephanie is passionate about how business owners can not only survive but thrive in the face of turbulent financial times and economic crises. With a background in media, publishing, finance and sales psychology, and an education at Oxford University, Stephanie has been featured on all things 'entrepreneur' in such prominent media outlets as The Bookseller, The Guardian, TimeOut, The Southbank Centre and ITV News, as well as several other national publications.

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