Why flexible working makes good business sense

The entrepreneur and recruitment expert Louise Deverell-Smith on why we’ve all waved goodbye to the nine-to-five

louise deverell smith
Bea Bermejo

Louise Deverell-Smith came up with the idea for Daisy Chain, an online platform connecting candidates looking for flexible-working roles with open-minded employers, while working in fashion recruitment. “Before that, I’d been in a busy full-time sales role, but I was getting married and planned to have children, and I simply couldn’t see anyone else around me who was a working parent,” she explains. “Once I moved into recruitment, lots of people, especially mothers with school-age children, started asking me whether I could help them find flexible jobs. At that time, the answer was, not really, because the sector was quite defined. But these were such talented women – lawyers, accountants, bankers – so I knew there had to be a way to solve the problem.”

She spoke with some of the employers she was working with, and explained that she had a number of prospective candidates who weren’t looking for part-time roles (“They had huge childcare bills to cover”) but simply wanted the option not to work the traditional nine-to-five. Three clients expressed interest and agreed to pay their fee upfront, which enabled Deverell-Smith to build the Daisy Chain website (the name is in honour of her third child, Daisy). “I wanted it to be a tech platform rather than a recruitment company – the idea is that it connects clients and potential employees directly, without the recruiter as middle man,” she explains. Clients pay a fee to be listed as flexible employers, after their practices and policies have been vetted by the Daisy Chain team, while the platform is free for candidates to use.

Five years later, the working landscape looks very different from when Deverell-Smith launched her business. “The pandemic was essentially a massive flexible-working trial that proved this approach can work for everyone,” she says. “The big corporates are generally much more open to the idea – I’m seeing flexible working listed at the top of their online careers pages, whereas before it might have been hidden down amid the maternity packages.”

The pandemic was essentially a massive flexible-working trial

No wonder a growing number of employers are listing themselves on Daisy Chain: there are now more than 120 businesses on the platform, ranging from the NHS to estate agents, accountancy firms and hospitality groups such as the Ivy. While at the moment, 98 per cent of the 10,000-plus candidates currently registered are female, Deverell-Smith expects that this will change as flexible working continues to be normalised. “This isn’t just a parent issue any more – everyone should be given the option to work in a way that suits their needs,” she says. “For employers, the benefits are huge. It’s an amazing tool for attracting new candidates, and if employees believe they’re trusted to get the job done in the hours that fit their lifestyle, they’re much more likely to be loyal, so retention is much higher. Plus, it goes without saying that having an environment of trust makes for a nice place to work.” We can all agree on that.

Flexible working by numbers

4,185,000: the number of employees with flexible-hours contracts in 2021

81%: the percentage of employees who say they feel more loyal to a company if it offers flexible working

65%: the percentage of employees who say they are more productive when working from home

78%: the percentage of working parents who say they have more flexibility and understanding around childcare needs since the pandemic

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