The surprising relationship between flexible working, awareness and equality for working families

Parents want to work hybrid or remote, but there are risks to mitigate

Flexible working is here to stay with countries like the UK and USA leading the pack in supporting hybrid and remote work.

Is this good news for working parents? It’s complicated…

Statistically speaking, working families are committed to this new world of work. And no wonder, from less expensive commutes to more time spent with children, flexibility is a key component of quality of life for many.

But with this new era of flexible working, leaders need to be aware of how their teams are actually doing, and hybrid working in particularly presents a host of new challenges.

It’s not uncommon for teams to have some members working fully remote, some fully on-site and others oscillating a few days each way.

The hybrid work arrangements that seems like a perfect solution at the start of 2022, have resulted in unexpected power differences, with those who work 100% remote or hybrid disadvantaged when it comes to promotions, access to technological support, the ability to influence decisions[i].

The challenge for managers is how to make each cohort not only feel supported in their work environments, but also to feel an equal part of the team.


Hybrid working is important to working families


Working Families is a UK charity that works to break down barriers for working parents and those with caring responsibilities in the workplace.

In their 2022 Index, Working Families reported a 15% increase in the number of parents who work flexibly, from 55% in 2019 to a whopping 70% today.

This is hardly surprising given the events of the last three years, yet despite this progression, inequalities remain when it comes to who can access flexible working and career progression for flexible workers.

True flexibility has never just been about ‘where’ you work, it is about considering the needs of individuals and supporting them in all aspects of life, so that they feel valued and engaged at work.

Working Families writes that working parents and carers are represented in all walks of life, and many who work in knowledge based roles, traditionally on the vanguard to remote working, remain on-site and inflexible.

Where a shift to flexible working is positive, overall access to this type of work continues to be tied to income and particular types of industry and job roles.

While discrepancies around who can access this kind of working remain prevalent, those companies that offer flexible working stand to benefit from a higher calibre of recruits, engagement and longevity of their workforce.

Why flextime is more than a ‘perk’

In addition to offering flextime as a perk, managers must make it meaningful or they will find themselves running into the challenges outlined above.

This means appreciating individual circumstances and responding accordingly. In short, managers need to really ‘see’ their team and colleagues.

It’s time to bring our whole self to work

2020 ushered in an era of permeable boundaries between work and personal lives and more workers prioritising their health and families over their careers.

But 2024 promises another year of economic uncertainty, and it’s hardly a jump to imagine that many working families are trying to balance their work with this new focus on home.

Managers are well-advised to provide meaningful connection opportunities to unite geographically dispersed teams and encourage a ‘bring your whole self to work’ philosophy.

An appreciation for employees’ needs and differences by getting to know each colleague’s ‘whole self’ will contribute to an engaged and respectful work environment.

When individuals know themselves and their preferences with regard to preferred workstyles, values and communications, and how these preferences interplay with others, the result is happier, more connected teams.


How Working Families makes a difference


Working Families operates remotely, and to ensure their teams feel connected, they use Insights Discovery to build this kind of awareness.

Using the language of Insights colour energies, individual Working Families employees are able to understand each team member’s communication preferences and dial certain behaviours up or down depending on the preferences of the team member working with them.

Cultivating this culture within your team fosters that important sense of flexibility, as colleagues adapt how they communicate and pivot certain behaviours around others’ preferences.  

The result? An engaging and respectful work environment, whether it be hybrid or remote, where teams are more connected and happier.

Continue reading how Working Families fosters self-awareness in their remote teams through the magic of Insights Discovery


Read the Working Families case studi >


[i] https://hbr.org/2021/02/making-the-hybrid-workplace-fair