Flexible working requests: is work-life balance finally within reach?
If this rule change is handled well by employers, it could herald a cultural shift in the NHS
Nurses can now make unlimited flexible working requests, from day one in their job, following the introduction of new rules in September.
Offering such an opportunity for better work-life balance shouldn’t sound revolutionary, but the change, at this stage for NHS staff in England and Wales, really is.
Cultural shift in the NHS has never been more needed
What happens next is crucial. Some nurses have pointed out these are merely requests, and that if we are to stem the tide of people leaving the profession such requests need to be supported by action.
‘It is surely time nursing moved away from back-to-back 12-hour shifts as a means of promoting work-life balance’
This doesn’t mean everyone working part-time. There are many options, from fixed working patterns to team self-rostering and flexi-time.
If done properly, it could herald a cultural shift in the NHS. And if ever there was a time this was needed, it is now, when NHS staff burnout has become so prevalent it’s the topic of an inquiry by MPs.
Work-life balance without the punishing shift patterns
It is surely time nursing moved away from back-to-back 12-hour shifts as a means of promoting work-life balance.
Our 2020 survey with the University of Southampton found that while more than half of the 2,200 respondents worked shifts of 12 hours or longer, only a third said it was their preferred shift length.
Lecturer in nursing workforce Chiara Dall’Ora, one of the Southampton researchers, is investigating the correlation between shift length and patient safety and looking at alternatives that can meet the needs of those who currently opt for longer shifts. ‘I doubt anyone will want to work a 12-hour shift per se because it’s really fatiguing,’ she says.
The rule changes, along with honest and constructive conversations between staff and managers, could introduce a new era in which the NHS is a truly flexible employer that supports its workforce.
If you have made a flexible working request under the new rules, we’d love to hear about your experience – email me at firstname.lastname@example.org