9 to 5 No More: Today’s High-Skill Job Seekers Want Flexibility

A man in plaid working on his laptop

What does today’s high-skill job seeker want? An analysis of popular job search terms points to some crucial answers.

In the Indeed Hiring Lab’s latest research report we looked at searches for remote, weekend and flexible work and found that they were on the rise in Australia between 2013 and 2014. Among the 12 largest economies, this increase in Australia was by far the greatest.

There is growing interest in flexible work in many of the world's largest economies, including Australia

Why is interest in flexible work rising?

In economically troubled times—such as during the global financial crisis—an uptick in searches for these types of working arrangements may reflect the difficulty workers have finding full-time employment. In other situations, people may be looking for a flexible opportunity to balance work with other responsibilities. Perhaps they are seeking extra income or cannot work full time due to family circumstances.

There is a common assumption that part-time and remote work tends to be low paying, low skill work. But a closer look at the language of search suggests that flexibility is taking on a new meaning.

In fact, Indeed data shows that over half of the top 50 keywords associated with searches for flexible work are related to high-skill jobs—and not only that, but many of these are in the tech and healthcare fields where talent is scarce.

In Australia, the occupational category which garners the most interest from job seekers pursuing flexible work arrangements is the Computer and Mathematical category—which includes many in-demand tech jobs. Healthcare Support comes second, which contains a number of hard-to-fill, highly specialised medical roles.

High skill workers are moving beyond the 9 to 5

Clearly “flexibility” isn’t just about low-paid or part-time work anymore—today’s in-demand job seekers want to have a greater say in when and where their work is done. New technologies make it easier for workers to remain connected across disparate locations, and as a result, more and more of them are losing interest in the traditional 9 to 5 model. They want to set their own schedule, organise their own priorities and get the work done on their own terms.

So what does this mean for employers? Given the traditional associations with flexible work, they may be underestimating the degree to which high-skill candidates are interested in this new approach to setting their own time and schedule. In particular, firms struggling to recruit top talent in key fields may have to seriously consider adding more flexibility if they hope to compete for the best talent—an insight that should inform how employers post jobs.

But that’s not all. Flexibility may grant employers access to other pools of talent. After all, today the baby boomers are either in or approaching retirement age, and that means soon there will be a large group of experienced workers who may be looking to stay engaged with work, though not necessarily in a traditional office setting. And so there’s another reason why employers looking to fill positions in difficult fields may want to consider offering the option of flexible work.

For more valuable employer insights, download our latest report Labour Market Outlook 2016: Uncovering the Causes of Global Jobs Mismatch.

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