Major new research by Indeed and the government-backed Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) shows that clearer flexible working options would lead to a wave of new flexible roles and increase job applications by up to 30%.
The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) — which is one of the world’s leading behavioural science organisations, working around the world to improve people’s lives — analysed more than 780,000 job postings on Indeed.co.uk by 100,000 employers.
It found that prompting employers to clearly advertise flexible working options led to a 20% increase in the number of jobs advertised as flexible. If these ‘nudges’ were adopted on Indeed alone it would add at least 174,000 flexible jobs to the UK economy in a year.
The research – which analysed nearly 20 million job applications and is thought to be the largest of its kind conducted in the UK – also showed that jobs with clear flexible working options could attract up to 30% more applicants than those that did not.
The research concludes that if these ‘nudges’ were adopted on Indeed alone it would add at least 174,000 flexible jobs to the UK economy in a year.
An accompanying study by BIT found that men and women are equally attracted to adverts specifically advertising flexible work but greater transparency of flexible working arrangements would likely disproportionately benefit women, as – pre-pandemic – women were twice as likely to work flexibly*.
Women are also more likely to have lost their job due to Covid-19* and new job postings data from Indeed show occupations that attract more women than men have recorded the heaviest declines in openings since the pandemic: food preparation & service (-83% since 1 February 2020*), beauty & wellness (-82%) and hospitality & tourism (-77%).
Despite the declines, the female employment rate remains historically high (72%) but still lags male employment (78.4%) and while a new wave of flexible roles could drive labour market participation amongst both men and women, the impact of such roles would be felt more strongly by women.
The research from BIT & Indeed builds on a similar report that was published in December last year. Insurance company Zurich advertised all roles as flexible as part of a trial with BIT, this led to a 20% jump in the number of women applying for senior roles within the company and double the number of total applications.
Almost 40% of employees worked from home in 2020, and the appetite for flexibility hit new heights during the Covid-19 pandemic. Research has shown that 9 out of 10 jobseekers want increased flexibility, be it remote working (60%), flexitime (54%) or reduced hours (26%).
Liz Truss MP: ‘Time to seize the opportunity’
Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March, Minister for Women & Equalities, Liz Truss MP, has called for the normalisation of flexible working.
“Our commitment to flexible working is based on our desire to open up employment opportunities to people regardless of their sex or location,” she said. “The shift for many people to work from home during the pandemic has changed mindsets and now is a chance to seize the opportunity of making flexible working the norm, rather than something employees have to specially request.
“The fact is that for many jobs there are invisible restrictions that hold people back – like the need to live in high-cost accommodation close to the centre of cities or maintain working arrangements that are very hard to combine with family or other responsibilities. We now have the chance to break down these barriers and boost opportunities for everyone.”
Deepa Somasundari: ‘Flex positively impacts women’
Reflecting on the results, Deepa Somasundari, Senior Director of Strategic Projects at Indeed, commented: “We constantly test our products and use those learnings to build a more equitable system for those looking for work and in doing so make the hiring process fairer. Our work with the Behavioural Insights Team led us to make changes in the UK and internationally that help fulfill our mission of helping all people get jobs.
“We know people value flexible work opportunities and as a result of the pandemic, there is increasing expectation that jobs are designed with this in mind. For employers, this means reconsidering the notion that flexible work is a benefit and instead acknowledging it as a better way of working that could positively impact the lives of women and therefore society as a whole.”
Read more about the test on the Behavioural Insights Team blog.
 Covid-19 and gender equality: countering the aggressive affects, McKinsey (2020)
 The impact of Coronavirus on UK job postings through 29 January, Indeed (2021)
 Female employment rate Sep-Nov 2020, ONS (2021)
 Male employment rate Sep-Nov 2020, ONS (2021)