Flexible working still frowned upon, say IT pros

Research claims half of IT workers believe the industry has not adapted to flexible working

Working from home — or when out and about with the help of a laptop — may be a trend on the rise, but attitudes to flexible working are far more Victorian in the IT department, a survey of technology workers has found.

Although more than half (61.1 percent) of the more than 900 IT workers polled do work flexible hours, almost half (45.2 percent) of respondents said the industry has not adapted to flexible working, according to research conducted by online recruitment company the IT Job Board.

Nearly a fifth (17.4 percent) said they believe flexible working has a negative effect on career progression, with some respondents saying employers see them as less committed to their job if they are not in the office.

And 22.6 percent said they have considered going back to work on a non-flexible basis because of the constraints imposed on them by this way of working.

Yet the ability to work from home is very important for IT professionals. When looking for a new job, technology workers cited flexible working as the next most important criterion after salary, according to the poll, with 57.4 percent citing the ability to work from home as 'very important'. Other factors that ranked highly were location and the possibility of career progression.

Of the more than a third (38.9 percent) of respondents who do not work flexible hours, the vast majority (81.5 percent) said they are not offered the option by their employer. And well over half (65.4 percent) said they feel their work/life balance suffers through non-flexible working conditions.

Currently, only parents with children who are under six or disabled are entitled to request flexible working. However, earlier this year, the government announced plans to extend flexible-working rights to all parents with children under the age of 16, giving an extra 4.5 million people the right to ask to work flexible hours.

Of the technology workers who are able to work flexibly, a quarter (25.3 percent) do it because their employer allows it, the research found, and a similar percentage (24.9 percent) said it is a lifestyle choice. Slightly less than a fifth (19.7 percent) said they want to avoid busy travel times.

Around a third (34.2 percent) of the flexible workers work from home, while a similar percentage (32.2 percent) work part-time. Only eight percent work flexi-time, according to the survey.

Alex Farrell, managing director of the IT Job Board, said offering flexible working can be a way for employers to attract and retain talented staff — something of core importance to the IT industry, which is suffering a skills crisis.

Flexible working can be especially important in attracting women into the industry — another area the technology industry needs to improve on — Farrell added.

In related news, a survey by recruitment agency Career Moves Group has found improvements in technology and flexible working have allowed commuter towns to spread hundreds of miles from London, as far afield as Dorset, the West Country and the Midlands.

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