North Wales Management School - Wrexham University

Why Dolly may have had the right idea… Could we soon see the end of the 9 to 5?

Posted on: July 22, 2019
Why Dolly may have had the right idea… Could we soon see the end of the 9 to 5?

We all know the famous Dolly Parton sang, ‘Working nine to five, what a way to make a living’; but it’s becoming clear that she may have been ahead of her time back in 1980. Increasingly people aren’t actually working 9-5 and flexibility has become a key benefit for employees, who are able to fit work around childcare, avoid rush hour or simply choose to work when they work most efficiently.

But could the tide be changing? Recent research reveals the demand for flexible working is substantial: some 92% of Millennials identify flexibility as a top priority when job hunting; 80% of women and 52% of men want flexibility in their next role; 70% of UK employees feel that flexible working makes a job more attractive to them, and 30% would prefer flexible working to a pay rise.

However, fewer than 10% of UK advertised jobs currently offer flexibility.

What is flexible working?

Flexibility is the umbrella term used to describe any role that breaks the traditional norm of a rigid 9-to-5, five-day week structure that has been a staple of western culture since Henry Ford adopted it in 1926. The term covers all types of part-time work, including compressed hours, flexitime and job-shares, remote working, freelance, contracting and portfolio careers. It allows for ‘agile’ working practices in larger firms, output-based contracts and virtual teams – where team members are based in different locations. Some companies are even bringing changes to the standard five-day week. For example, Indy Cube, a provider of workspaces in Wales, is one of a growing number of employers giving their workers an extra day off for the same pay as a five-day week.

With flexibility comes opportunity

For employees, the benefits of flexible working are often focused on improving their work-life balance, as well as looking after their health and wellbeing. However, these arrangements also impact positively on productivity. Research from the CIPD has shown that implementing flexible working practices can improve the company culture and motivation.

But it’s not only employees who benefit from flexible working. Flexible arrangements benefit organisations, too. They can help to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and enhance employee engagement and loyalty. We live in a 24-7 world driven by technology and globalisation. Demand for customer services across countries and time zones and outside of 9-to-5 has driven the emergence of alternative shift patterns. By offering flexible working patterns, businesses can not only meet these modern demands, but they may also be able to widen the pool of talent, especially for hard-to-fill roles.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that people who are empowered to work where, when and how they want, work more productively and do more than they are paid to do. Pursuit Marketing in Glasgow switched 120 people to four days in late 2016 and claims it has been instrumental in a 30% increase in productivity. Likewise, Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand trust business, has switched its 240 employees to a four-day week and has reported a 20% increase in productivity.

Benefits from flexible working are valuable for retaining staff, too. If you as an employee have a great flexible working pattern, you are less likely to give this up. Staff often value flexibility over other more traditional forms like remuneration, and at a new employer, you might need to wait and earn the right to work part-time or flexibly.

A flexible future

For an organisation to attract and retain a happy and productive workforce, employers need to think beyond the basic legal requirements around flexible working. This means the pre-existing culture, habits and mind-set of many organisations needs to be challenged, which takes time. Flexible working isn’t about being a parent anymore; it’s what the millennial generation of workers are coming to expect, and it is something organisations should be embracing and seeking to embed wherever possible.

Creating flexible working within a business requires a deep understanding of how the company operates and how employees work too, it may not be right for every organisation and understanding how and when to implement it is a skill in itself. Gaining a deep understanding of business, including critical skills such as human resource management, strategy and effective planning are key skills taught on Wrexham University’s unique Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree which could help you guide a business to a flexible working pattern. The online programme is designed with ambitious, self-starting professionals in mind who are looking to fast-track their career or start a business of their own.

The programme is delivered 100% to enable you to study at your own pace, alongside your existing career, family or other commitments. There are six start dates a year, flexible payment options and postgraduate government loans to cover the full programme cost, for those that are eligible.

To find out more, or to apply, visit