Workers care more about home working policies than pay

UK employees rank workplace flexibility as being more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction.

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Helena Young
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Access to flexible working arrangements has surpassed salary as the top workplace benefit amongst UK employees. The results suggest more staff are choosing work-life balance over financial stability.

Business Name Generator surveyed over 1,000 office-based workers in the UK to reveal the perks at the top of their wishlist for improved workplace wellbeing. Hybrid working was easily the most popular choice, as 94% of respondents agree the perk improves staff morale.

Variations of agile work, such as flexible office space and able to choose your own hours, also topped the charts.

Big name employers like Google and Meta are attempting to bribe, or even blackmail, workers back into the office, as companies deal with poor attendance coupled with rising rent payments.

Against the backdrop of an employee engagement crisis, the findings are a reminder of the opportunities that a hybrid policy could bring SMEs in terms of finding, and retaining, talent.

Flexible working a priceless perk for UK employees

That the employee benefits podium is entirely centred on flexible working is telling. All three policies scored over 90% favorability with staff, beating more tangible benefits like an annual bonus, paid overtime, and even a market value salary.

Time is money, as the saying goes. Flexible working has been found to help employees better balance their work and home responsibilities, including childcare. It seems individuals are favouring initiatives that limit avoid stress or burnout, rather than help financially.

RankBenefit% of respondents who agree this benefit improves wellbeing% of respondents who have this benefit
1Working From Home (WFH) flexibility94.0%26.7%
2Flexible working hours93.0%28.4%
3Flexible working location92.7%19.0%
4Annual / quarterly bonus87.9%14.8%
5Extra annual leave85.4%17.4%
6Paid overtime85.7%26.4%
7Market value salary85.1%8.7%
8Unlimited annual leave85.0%2.0%
9Company holidays / trips84.0%7.5%
10Investment opportunities83.3%5.4%

Employers have begun refining their employee benefits and perks packages over the past year as a way to combat labour shortages, which have been threatening small business growth since the pandemic, and entice new talent.

Viewed in this way, the Business Name Generator analysis represents a big financial opportunity for SMEs. Cash-strapped organisations have struggled to raise salaries in line with inflation.

Knowing that teams prefer flexible working over a potential pay increase will ease some of the pressure off employers. Plus, the findings could prove doubly lucrative.

Alongside lower staffing costs, the research also tells bosses that a flexible workforce will be more satisfied in the long-term, reducing the risk of hiring regret (caused by taking on an ill-matched or dissatisfied new starter who leaves within the first year of employment).

Workers switch careers for a flexible career path

The careers marketplace, Indeed conducted research into the most attractive industries for career changers. It found that those industries where flexible working is less widely available also demonstrate the lowest levels of staff loyalty, on average.

The sectors seeing the highest staff turnover rate include tourism, retail, hospitality, and customer service. Staff members from these groups are actively searching for new roles in a different industry, while there is little interest from new joiners.

When hiring in-person, customer service roles, SMEs in these types of firms will find it harder to offer flexible working options compared to jobs that can be done online (ie. software development or accounting).

Driving jobs are the most popular occupations for people considering a career change. Most members of the driving workforce, such as Uber drivers, are self-employed. This allows for workers to be their own boss and choose their own working hours.

Designing a flexible work policy may therefore be the best option for attracting new talent. Initiatives such as the four-day week, or swapping bank holidays, have become more widespread as hiring managers think of ways to outpace rival firms.

Conversely, forcing employees to come back to the office is also likely to have a negative impact on a company’s recruitment strategy. Research has shown that 64% of employees who plan to switch roles are doing so after being told to come back into the office full-time.

Government joins calls to improve flexible working accessibility

Business Name Generator’s research indicates that, while over 9 in 10 UK workers want the ability to WFH in their current role, just over a quarter currently have access to the perk.

That’s despite official figures showing that over 40% of company employees were working at home in some capacity during 2022, and signals that some business owners may be winning the return-to-office debate.

To ensure every UK worker has the right to request flexible working, the government has published plans for a Flexible Working Bill.

Also known as the Employment Relations Bill, the legislation aims to give employees greater flexibility over where, when, and how they work. Last week, it completed its final stage in the House of Lords, meaning it now only requires royal assent before becoming law.

Under the plans, all UK employees will be eligible to make two flexible working requests per year from day one of employment. While employers are still able to turn a request down, they must consult with the employee within two months to explain their reasoning.

Likely, the bill will have a big impact on how many SMEs operate in the UK. For example, an organisation may advertise and appoint a full-time, office-based role only to receive a request for flexible working on the first day of employment.

Company owners must be prepared for these eventualities. Employers should research the most common flexible options (like part-time, remote, or at-home working) to consider how the team might potentially introduce the perk to your own business model.

Our guide on hybrid work policies has more information on how to design a flexible working strategy that will satisfy staff, including what to consider.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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