Some of you may have read a blog post I wrote for Benefex last week, in which I talked about the desperate need for us to relook at the way we treat parents and parental responsibilities within the workplace.

The need to provide increased flexibility doesn’t just apply to parents, either. When CV Library undertook a piece of research to understand what employees would cite as their most desired workplace benefit, flexible working came out on top with a massive 47% of respondents listing it. Like it or not, a demand for increased flexibility within the workplace is here to stay. The very best organisations out there have already woken up to this, and are making workplace flexibility a key component of their EVP.

But flexibility at work isn’t just about the hours you’re contracted to work. I was recently helping a friend to search for a new role. She is a senior manager with a number of years’ experience managing large teams. She also happens to have two young children.

A worrying trend

As we looked through a plethora of advertised roles, we noted a trend emerging – one which you can test for yourself, if you like. Go and select a job board, and search for senior level roles. Take each of the positions posted in turn, and scan through the text.

How many of those positions state that a prerequisite to be considered for the role is ‘flexibility to travel?’ ‘Able to commit to working outside of core hours, including evenings and weekends?’ ‘Ability to travel internationally, often at short notice?’ From my research, I’m going to harbour a guess that it’s anything from 50% up to a staggering 80-90% of all positions that you find.

Limiting our pool of talent

And sure. Flexibility is a two way process. Both employer and employee have the right to expect a degree of flexibility. But when we make sweeping statements such as the ones above within our job adverts, do we realise that we are directly limiting our pool of talent.

Not only that. We are at serious risk of actively discriminating – whether intentionally or otherwise.

Not all employees have – or will want to give – the flexibility to travel at a moment’s notice. Similarly, while most of us will be happy to travel within our core hours, how do we feel if this regularly extends out of those and starts to encroach on our time with family or friends? And, being really honest, is what we are asking of prospective candidates really necessary? Are we insisting upon these working practices because they are required… or because they’re just how we’ve always done it?

An age of technology

We live in an age of technology. Technology which allows us to communicate with anyone, around the world, in mere seconds. True, technology will never entirely replicate face to face contact. But I would argue that, in the vast majority of situations, it’s a very credible second best.

And so, next time you go to write that job advert which stipulates a considerable commitment from people outside of their core working hours, ask yourself exactly what you are hoping to obtain by doing so. Increased productivity? Unlikely. We’ve all seen the studies which show that productivity actually decreases when we work for an extended period. Improved employee engagement? It’s hard for employees to want to engage with a business which is deliberately and persistently eating into the time they have outside of the office to pursue personal interests. A better pool of applicants? Categorically not. By choosing to incorporate such limitations, you’re directly cutting off a vast proportion of candidates who might otherwise have been able to add real value to your business.

The world of work is changing. I am lucky enough to work for an employer who is at the forefront of that change. If you’re not, then help them to wake up and smell the coffee. Be the change that you want to see, and help us to create workplaces which are universally inclusive to all.