Flexible Work: How Life Work Life is Helping

Britain is failing to get talented women into top positions of power and losing out on what they can contribute. Read this article from Kirsten Kemingway Arnold of Life Work Life about some possible solutions.

Girls now out-perform boys at many levels of secondary education and nearly three out of five recent first degree graduates are women. In 2008, 14.3 million women are in the workforce, alongside 16.9 million men. We are approaching the position where women may soon make up half the workforce.

Before the arrival of children, 85% of working women are full-time. This falls dramatically to just 34% of working mothers with pre-school children. For women at every level of work, this leads to a staggering squander of talent. For many, moving to part-time work or leaving the labour market altogether, is the result of limited choices. A draining combination of outdated working practices and long hours cultures, alongside the absence of appropriate high-quality affordable child-care or social-care are the main culprits.

LifeWorklife.co.uk addresses these issues by making it cost-effective for companies who are willing to work flexibly to recruit individuals that will provide them with a business benefit. It will enable such businesses to access experience, knowledge and expertise from women who might otherwise be lost to the workforce. By taking away the risk of recruiting from this ‘passive sector’, putting companies in contact with the skills and knowledge they seek, companies will be able to see the benefits whilst removing their fear of trusting a flexible workforce. Empowering people to be in control of their work and lives will mean that companies will clearly see the capabilities of each member of their team. A happy and contented workforce is an extremely motivated, focussed and productive workforce. Absences through sickness are vastly reduced.

Smarter working practices will assist groups that have traditionally found work difficult, such as single parents and those with disabilities. When BT introduced smarter working practices, the number of working mothers returning to work after maternity leave increased to 99 per cent. There are over one million disabled people who want to work but don’t have a job. (Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey, summer 2003). Often, this is due to the difficulties of commuting to work. Public Transport also has many problems in dealing with disabled commuters (not least overcrowding on trains and accessibility). The London Underground network has few stations in Central London with disabled access. This makes it extremely difficult for disabled people to work in the traditional office environment. Kirsten Hemingway Arnold says ‘There are still a considerable number of highly talented, skilled and knowledgeable women and disabled people who are excluded from the traditional workplace due to difficulties commuting to and from the workplace. LifeWorkLife is positioned to enable these people to become an active and productive part of the UK workforce by enabling them to work from remote locations. I am sure that, given the right opportunities such as these, we will see a larger number of disabled people rising to positions of prominence’.

A report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) suggests that 46 per cent of UK businesses now offer some form of tele-working option to their staff, a figure that has more than trebled in the last two years. If home-working figures continue to climb at the pace the CBI suggests, remote access technology will have laid the foundation for the most significant alteration in global working practices since the beginning of the industrial age.Most discussions about the risks of flexible working tend to focus on cultural issues (how do you make it work for the team), on technology issues (how can you facilitate the process) or on trust issues. Kirsten Hemingway Arnold says ‘The potential of being able to tap into such a hidden market of skilled people is huge. LifeWorklife is positioned in such a way as to enable companies to reach out to this hidden market of talent, thus enabling enormous benefits to both parties‘.

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