Trend suggests more UK adults are prioritising a better work-life balance.

An increasing number of workers are rejecting the traditional “nine-to-five” working day and seeking more flexibility in order to get ahead in their chosen careers and try to find a more rewarding work-life balance, new research suggests.

A study by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (Rec) found that two out of five adults (40%) in the UK have done freelancing, contracting or temporary agency work at some point in their working life – up from just over a third in 2014.

According to the study, more than 25% of freelancers, contractors and temporary workers say they want to spend more time with their family and on hobbies, or furthering their career by taking on new training, gaining new skills or setting up a business.

Neil Carberry, chief executive of Rec, said:

“People are making a positive choice to do flexible work because they want more from their job.

“For too long, the political debate has treated flexible work as second class, and even locked flexible workers out of some forms of support, like the apprenticeship system.

“That has to change. We need to celebrate different forms of work that are essential to meeting workers’ needs.

“We need genuine two-way flexibility which benefits both business and workers. In times of uncertainty, businesses need flexibility to meet demand for skills and people are looking for opportunities to work flexibly or balance work with caring needs.

“Policies designed for the past need to be redesigned, for instance broadening the apprenticeship levy would mean even more people can get training while working flexibly to enhance their careers and reduce skills shortages.”

Flexible work is important for both men and women, but for different reasons

The Rec’s findings found that the gender balance among those who have done some form of temporary agency work is well matched (52% female and 48% male). However, there is a marked difference among contractors and freelancers where men are in the majority (63%).

The study showed that women are more likely to choose flexible working so they can look after children (13% of women compared to 4% of men), and to work more flexible hours (33% of women vs 24% of men).

Flexible work is favoured by workers of all ages

The research also found that people of different ages are motivated by flexible work for different reasons.

Flexible work is particularly favoured by younger people, with 25% of 18-24-year-olds having worked as either a freelancer, contractor or temporary agency worker. Of these, 41% said they did this so they could work flexible hours in order to study and pursue hobbies. For young people aged 25-34 years old, the main motivator behind ‘going flexible’ was the opportunity to gain more experience – 25% of them chose flexible work for that reason, compared to just 10% of over-45s.

The older generation also benefits from flexible working options. 20% of people aged over 65 have worked as a contractor or freelancer in their life, and 16% of them did so in the last year. The flexibility this gives them to work for more than one company is the big reason for the over 65’s (18%), followed by the opportunity to wind down to retirement on their own terms (12%).

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