A NEW survey has found that for the first time more than half of Scots employees are working flexibly. Figures released exclusively to the Sunday National reveal more than half – 55% – of Scottish workers now work flexibly, up from 46% recorded by the charity Family Friendly Working Scotland in 2017.

The YouGov poll shows that of the 43% who don’t currently work flexibly, more than half would like to.

The survey of more than 1000 Scottish adults found 52% of those aged between 18 and 34 work flexibly, with those figures rising by age group: 54% of those aged between 35 and 54 said they work flexibly, with the figure rising to 60% of those aged 55 and over.

More parents than non-parents use flexible work to balance childcare commitments: 61% of Scottish workers with children at home choose this way of working, with just 51% of those with no children at home working this way.

Flexible working can mean later starts or finishes, working weekends or from home, or clocking in and out at different times to store up time off for the future.

In the survey, Scots revealed they want flexibility for a wide range of reasons, with 48% of those asked saying caring responsibilities such as looking after children or older people was their main reason.

Being able to pursue hobbies, slow down before retirement, or volunteer for a charity or good cause were all cited as reasons to work flexibly.

Nikki Slowey, joint programme director for Family Friendly Working Scotland, said the demand for jobs with later start times or the choice of when to work is no longer wholly from women returning to work.

“Our figures show the desire to work flexibly is now universal,” Slowey told the Sunday National.

“Caring responsibilities, such as childcare and caring for elderly or disabled relatives are still important factors, but flexible working is no longer the preserve of working mothers.

“We’re seeing increasing examples of successful flexible working arrangements, so people can pursue hobbies they love, study, look after pets or even volunteer for a good cause.”

Slowey added that employers attitudes to set start and finish times seem to be changing.

She said: “Progressive employers understand they reap benefits from allowing men, women, younger workers, older workers, parents and non-parents to work flexibly because they are all more fulfilled, less stressed and more motivated at work.”

David Clyne, a recreation and access manager for the Cairngorms National Park Authority compresses his hours into four days so that he can enjoy the outdoor lifestyle on his doorstep such as mountain biking, hill walking, climbing, road biking and camping.

Clyne said: “I’m an outdoors person. I’d much rather be outside than sat behind a desk and I’m lucky to have been working compressed hours for about 10 years. It feels completely normal to me and my employer. I certainly have a better work life balance as a result. I’m more productive at work too.”

Holly Child, a communications manager from Livingston, works at home one day a week to look after her dog, Cooper, and to study for a diploma in public relations.

She said: “My employer is very supportive of life-friendly working, whatever the reason or pattern of work required. When I was planning to get a dog, I asked about working from home so I could take the dog for walks during the day and any vet appointments, when necessary.

“When my course started, I was able to make use of the study leave available.”

Charity director Shelagh Young, from Edinburgh, compresses her hours and “time-shifts” tasks earlier or later in the day.

She said the system works on trust, and strong results. “I’m measured on outcomes, not the hours I keep,” said Young. “I’m always very flexible in terms of how people can get hold of me on my mobile.

“I’m very conscious that people may want to talk something through before proceeding and it’s important I’m contactable if they need me. But otherwise, I manage my time to suit my work and home life.

“I originally started working flexibly out of sheer desperate necessity. I adopted two children and wanted to be around for them.

“Then as my children grew up I thought, if flexible working works for childcare, why can’t it work for other things too? I’ve never really gone back. There are multiple reasons why it’s better for everyone to flex their job around life events, rather than rigidly sticking to a particular timetable.”

Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills Jamie Hepburn welcomed the report and added that the Scottish Government is investing in making work fairer.

“These figures are welcome, reinforcing that flexible and fair work is good for everyone,” he told the Sunday National.

“That’s why the Scottish Government adopts the default position of ‘Fair Work First’, investment in skills and training, no exploitative zero-hours contracts, action on gender pay, genuine workforce engagement, including with trade unions, and payment of the real Living Wage.”

However, Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary Grahame Smith warned women can lose out. He said: “Genuine flexible working can have a positive impact on work-life balance and workers’ mental health and wellbeing, and allows employers to attract diverse talent, reduces sickness absence and improves staff retention.

“There are still far too many jobs in Scotland where flexible working is far from the norm.”

He added: “Those working in low-paid, female-dominated jobs such as cleaning and caring are likely to have less control over their schedules and remain subject to a ‘women’s work penalty’ when it comes to flexible working.

“In contrast well-paid management jobs, which tend to be dominated by men, are more likely to benefit from flexible working.”