Happy Birthday, Dolly Parton! As we celebrate the iconic singer’s birthday this week, let’s take a cue from one of her timeless hits, “9 to 5,” and explore a topic close to the hearts of many working women in the UK – the benefits of shorter, flexible working hours.
The traditional 9-to-5 grind was originally devised by Sir Henry Ford. It was created in a post-war society where the man of the house worked full time and acted as the main provider, and women stayed at home to look after the house and children.
Society, however, has now changed. More women are in work and since the pandemic, flexible working and shorter hours have become more mainstream.
We’re here to shed light on why embracing flexibility can be a game-changer for women in the workplace.
Balancing Care Responsibilities
One of the benefits of embracing shorter, flexible working hours is the newfound ability for women to navigate childcare and other caregiving responsibilities. Studies show that women are predominantly the main caregivers in UK households. Yet, the traditional 9-5 structure can clash with the demands of family life. This leaves many women grappling with the challenges of balancing career aspirations and caregiving duties.
Whether it’s juggling the demands of raising children, caring for elderly family members, or supporting a loved one through illness, the freedom to adapt work hours empowers women to meet their caregiving responsibilities head-on without sacrificing professional growth.
A Lifeline for Women in the Face of Rising Childcare Costs
The rising cost of childcare in the UK is a growing concern for women. Many mothers cannot afford the price of childcare which forces some to abandon their career altogether. Just last year, a new policy was introduced by the UK government which will force single parents who are on benefits into work. This new policy will disproportionately affect women. You can read about this here.
Shorter, flexible working hours are a practical solution to this challenge. With the ability to adjust their work schedules, women can minimize the financial burden of traditional childcare services.
Tackling The Menopause
Women between the ages of 45-55 are the fastest growing demographic in the UK workforce and almost 8 out of 10 menopausal people are in work. This natural life transition can bring a range of physical and emotional symptoms that vary widely from person to person. From hot flushes, fatigue, brain fog, and mood swings, the menopause can be a particularly difficult time.
Flexible schedules allow women experiencing symptoms to tailor their workday to better manage their well-being. Whether it’s adjusting start times to accommodate disrupted sleep patterns or allowing for remote work during particularly challenging days, flexibility becomes a lifeline.
Our project Women’s Workplace Wellness, is designed to help SMEs support women’s health in the workplace, including the menopause. Learn more about it here.
Dolly Parton sang about the dreariness of 9-to-5 and we have to say, she was onto something. We argue it is time to question this outdated, conventional working pattern. In the UK, challenging the 9-to-5 model opens new possibilities for women to thrive both personally and professionally.