The latest data from employee engagement experts Sodexo Engage, reveals that 76% of employees are more likely to apply for a role if there is an option to work flexible hours, highlighting that flexibility is no longer a nice-to-have but an expectation for today’s workers.

According to the research, many employees do not believe that SMEs offer sufficient flexibility. Of the 52% of employees who would rather work for a big corporation, 45% said they were put off by SMEs due to the lack of flexibility. Similarly, 44% of the female employees surveyed cited the lack of flexibility as a major turn-off from working at an SME.

Research from the CIPD found that almost half (46%) of employees say they still do not have access to flexible working arrangements, so it is unsurprising that people do not expect SMEs to be any better.

SMEs can play an important role in challenging these perceptions and responding to the needs of their workforce. Sodexo Engage’s research showed that almost a quarter (24%) of SME employees listed flexitime as a top benefit they wish they had, making it crucial for SMEs to respond to these requests, or risk losing out on top talent.

Alongside this, Sodexo Engage also found that just 13% of SME employees have felt engaged in their role over the past 12 months, and to help make them more engaged, 36% are after a better work-life balance. As such, SME employers must look to leverage strong flexible working policies to keep their workforce invigorated, along with other competitive benefits and rewards.

While 45% of SME employers acknowledge that the biggest challenge to employing good talent stems from competition with larger corporates, who can often offer greater flexible working, it is important that they have the right solutions in place to overcome this. For 40% of SME employers, their top employee related focus is preserving work-life balance, and through flexible working options they can put this priority into practice.


Emma Yearwood, Director of HR at Sodexo Engage, comments: 

“The benefits of offering flexible working are hard for SMEs to ignore and extend beyond offering employees a better work-life balance. Flexible working comes with the ability to attract and retain top talent, across a truly diverse spectrum. Through flexitime, for instance, working parents have the freedom to map out their hours around childcare commitments, and disabled employees may experience fewer barriers with the autonomy to work when it best suits them.

“In the current war for talent, it is crucial that SMEs take stock of the changing priorities of prospective employees and reflect their desires in the roles that they are offering. Of course, offering a fair salary has its place, however, in today’s market, it is not the only deciding factor when it comes to applying for a job. For SMEs to get the right people through the door, the key is to offer flexibility where they can, and help their workforce pursue a career that supports both their personal and professional priorities.”