Third sector workers want better work-life balance, says survey

One of the most commonly given motivations for people moving into the third sector is that they are seeking a better work-life balance.

TPP Not for Profit wanted to understand if not for profit organisations match their employees’ expectations for flexible working options and to what extent charities are exploiting the full potential of flexible working.

TPP surveyed 376 employers and employees across the sector, asking them about the flexible working options their organisation offered and the options they would most like to receive.

Key Findings:

15% of organisations still don’t offer any flexible working options at all

Charities are not actively promoting flexible working and most employees don’t realise all the options that exist.

The flexible working options offered do not match the range of options desired by employees

86% of employers agreed that they saw a positive impact on their organisation after flexible working was introduced, primarily on employee relations and recruitment and retention.

15% of organisations surveyed don’t currently offer any flexible working options at all, with small to medium size organisations being the worst offenders.

This is much lower than the national average across all industries of 4% (according to the CIPD).

19% of non-profit organisations only offer one type of flexible working (usually the option to work from home for some of the week).

When non-HR employees were asked about the flexible working options their employers offered, the figures were significantly lower.

For example, 66% of employers currently offer home working, but only 41% of employees are aware of this option.

This suggests that charities are offering flexible working on a case-by-case basis and responding to individual requests, rather than promoting it uniformly across the organisation.

When employees were asked to grade their flexible working preferences, flexitime came top as the most desired option. However, only 57% of organisations offer this at all.

Compressed weeks is the third most preferred option, where employees work the same number of hours but over fewer days, but only 25% of charities offer this.

Altogether, employees would prefer a much broader range of options which can be tailored to meet their individual needs.

86% of employers agreed that they saw a positive impact on their organisation after flexible working was introduced, primarily on employee relations and recruitment and retention.

The opinions of employees backed this up, particularly the impact on recruitment and retention.

Although only 49% said flexible working had some influence on them when they moved to their current role, 70% of employees said that it could influence them to stay on in their current role.

When asked how content they were in their current role, 26% of employees said they were dissatisfied.

When just looking at organisations who offer no flexible working options, this percentage rose to 45%.

Clearly, flexible working is a very positive benefit for employees, and as it becomes increasingly embedded in a workforce, it is likely to be an increasingly powerful retention tool.

Although the third sector has traditionally offered a better work-life balance than the private sector, partly as compensation for lower salaries, our survey results show that there is still a long way to go:

70% of employees regularly work overtime, but only 21% are compensated for it

32% find it difficult to use their holiday allowance each year

29% say their work life balance has got worse in the last year

There is still a lot of scope for third sector employers to be more creative with flexible working, for example offering compressed weeks.

Employers could also start actively promoting flexible working, rather than simply responding to requests on a case-by-case basis.

Particularly for small to medium-sized charities, which are unable to compete on salary or reputation, offering a range of flexible working options could be a powerful tool for recruitment and retention.

Fortunately only 8% of organisations feel the recession has worsened their ability to offer flexible working.

In fact, many see it as a way to reduce costs and increase productivity in a time when funding might be restricted and demand for their services is increasing.

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