Flexible Working for Young People and Employers
News  comment 
14th Dec 2015

Imagine entering the workplace 20 years ago and immediately demanding flexibility. For most of us, it’s unthinkable, isn’t it?


For any Baby Boomers or Generation X (that’s anyone who’s celebrated their 36th birthday), the experience of starting work was one of earning trust and respect, often through long hours. It was only when parenthood or caring responsibilities came along could you dare to ask for more flexible working patterns.



Today young people are entering a very different workplace. Rather than hours ‘on the clock’, many employers are looking for outcomes, and organisations and policy makers have clearly started to recognise how much more productive a workforce can be if given the opportunity to work flexibly.


The expectations of young people have changed too. Growing up surrounded by technology and the ability to connect with anyone, anywhere, they look for instant recognition, instant feedback and an instant work-life balance. If they don’t find it, what’s to stop them browsing for another job elsewhere on their smartphone?


I work for Sodexo, the 18th largest company in the world with 420,000 employees around the globe.


Such is the scope and diversity of our activities – providing a range of facilities management services from cleaning and security to engineering and hospitality – that long ago we as a company realised the value of flexibility and the positive effect it can have on employee engagement.


Where your business is totally reliant on your employees providing a world-class service to clients and customers, happiness in their role is crucial to your success.


Work-life balance is the key in achieving the level of employee engagement we need to compete in the market. In my position on the Sodexo Women’s International Forum for talent (SWIFt) – a collection of global senior leaders driving gender balance across the organisation – I’m responsible for the ‘flexibility’ work stream.


Under this auspice, I ran an internal webinar for employees earlier this year on flexibility and how to achieve it in your role. We offered advice on how to apply for flexible working, shared a number of case studies of Sodexo employees who already enjoy flexibility, and looked at flexible working regulations introduced last year by the UK government.


Young people want more out of their first jobs in terms of flexibility. It’s important they recognise employers are also willing to give more.


Working together there is tremendous capability to deliver success for everyone.