International Women’s Day: women urge industry to embrace flexible working

The recruitment agency sector has been urged to up its game in embracing flexible working this International Women’s Day.

Reflecting on her own experience, Sharon Leonard, recruitment specialist at Castle Employment Group, told Recruiter she had her son 15 years ago and back then there was a lack of flexible roles in the sector, meaning she had to set up on her own.

“I do think companies are offering more flexibility now but there’s not enough… I just think in recruitment most companies don’t offer that. Working in rec-to-rec, there were very few of my clients that would let people work a four-day week or work from home because there is that element of control, whereas especially with experienced recruiters you need to treat them like adults.”

But these days, having gone back to being an employee in a recruitment agency, she has had a more positive experience. “At Castle I’ve had a positive experience of joining a business that does recognise that offering flexibility can actually work for recruiters. Castle has 35 consultants and 40% work a four-day week – and they are still as productive. 

“You have the option to work from home if, say for instance, you’ve got a sick child or you need to move your days around; they offer that flexibility, and it just creates a hardworking, positive workforce that still produces.”

But Deborah O’Sullivan, director at Ten2Two, told Recruiter the lack of flexible roles is a problem across industry and particularly within agency-based sectors, who tend to have very fixed attitudes, where workers are expected to work 9 to 5 at their desk at their client’s beck and call.

“There is a change of attitude that is required that says you don’t need to be at your desk seven and a half hours a day in order to do a great job. At Ten2Two we all work flexibly. Our clients know we do and as long as they know when they are going to get an answer – and the quality of service doesn’t suffer as a result of that – they don’t mind. 

“They don’t care if we’re working from home, if we are on a beach… The main thing is a change of attitude that says you don’t have to be at your desk constantly supervised in order to do a great job. It’s more about output than hours – that’s what our phraseology is.”

• What do you think? Does your company recognise that output rather than hours is the most important thing, or are you a slave to the 9-5 mentality? Comment below on this story. You can also tweet us to tell us your thoughts or share this story with a friend. Our editorial email is [email protected]

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