By Richard Prime, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Sonovate


As we navigate through the ever-changing landscape of the modern job market, it becomes increasingly evident that flexibility is here to stay, and society is seeing its benefits and embracing it.

A significant step recently has been the approval of the flexible working bill in the UK. Employees are now granted the right to request flexible working arrangements from their employers. This landmark decision represents a progressive step towards accommodating the changing needs of the modern workforce. It will now be easier than ever for workers to discuss and request flexible options from their employers, such as contract roles, remote work, or job-sharing.

As a provider of embedded finance solutions for the contingent workforce, we at Sonovate have kept a close eye on the evolution of flexible working over the past few years. Our research revealed that 67% of businesses are experiencing a shift towards a greater proportion of their workforce being comprised of contingent workers. In the same vein, 70% of businesses think the most skilled people will only work under conditions that suit them, emphasising the shift towards a candidate/worker led market.

Very interestingly, we also noted wide differences across regions in the UK. For instance, even before the new bill was approved, London-based firms were nearly twice as likely to witness their permanent staff expressing a desire to transition into contract roles. This phenomenon marks a significant shift in worker preferences, indicating that traditional full-time positions may no longer be the ideal choice for all employees. The data presented in the report showcased a remarkable 45% increase in employees opting for contract roles over permanent positions in the past year alone.

The reasons behind this shift are multi-faceted. Employees, particularly in a large and busy city like London, are increasingly valuing freedom and autonomy over rigid office routines. They seek opportunities to curate their work-life balance, enabling them to pursue personal interests while staying actively engaged in their careers.

Another notable change is the rising importance of job perks in attracting and retaining top talent. Employee benefits packages have evolved beyond the conventional health and pension plans. Professionals in London are now seeking perks that enhance their overall well-being, foster a positive work environment, and support their individual growth.

Forward-thinking companies are stepping up their game by offering a range of exciting perks, such as wellness programs, flexible working hours, remote work options, and professional development opportunities. Millennial business leaders seem to be the ones fronting this evolution. As members of the new generation, they understand the potential of remote work, flexible schedules, and project-based roles in driving innovation and attracting top talent.

73% of these leaders believe flexible working has been proven to work – compared to only 34% of their Baby Boomer counterparts. Younger business leaders are also four times as likely than those aged over 55 to say they are open to hiring temporary workers. They recognise that flexibility isn’t just a perk for employees; it is a catalyst for innovation and growth. By adopting flexible workforces and embracing contract arrangements, they can tap into a vast talent pool to leverage specialised skillsets, leading to improved efficiency and better outcomes.

As we delve further into this transformative era, it is crucial for businesses to adapt and evolve with the changing workforce landscape. Embracing flexibility, whether through contract roles or innovative job perks, can yield countless benefits for companies looking to attract and retain top talent in today’s competitive job market.

Businesses must embrace creativity to adapt their structures culturally, operationally, technologically, and financially. While a small number of companies (15%) have taken initial steps towards effective collaboration between permanent and temporary employees, it’s imperative that more businesses follow suit. The demand for flexible working from top talent necessitates a rapid increase in implementing new organisational frameworks.

Crucially, companies must adopt innovative payment methods for freelance and contract workers. There has been an alarming increase in late payments to contractors. Our research in June 2023 found that more than 43% of UK SMEs now struggle to pay their contract workers on time because of cash flow problems within their businesses, that’s an increase of more than 53% year on year. Traditional payroll can simply not meet the needs of the modern workforce and the requirement to keep a healthy cashflow has never been more important. Access to finance and tech-led solutions becomes paramount in offering fair and swift payment throughout the workforce supply chain. Without these changes, the future of work, where individuals can choose their preferred work style, and companies tap into skilled talent on demand, remains elusive. Only technology-led innovation can support this new way of working, ensuring everyone’s needs are met within the workplace.