Eighty-five per cent of employers think demand for flexible working is likely to increase, according to a survey by workingmums.co.uk.
Its survey shows that demand will be coming from across the board, but more than four in 10 would like more support to implement it.
A poll of around 200 employers indicates that currently 37 per cent of them think all groups of employees want flexible working. This compares with 35 per cent who think demand is coming mainly from parents and 23 per cent who said it is mainly coming from mums.
However, although 38 per cent think there has been no change in the groups asking for flexible working in the last year, 31 per cent said that more fathers were asking, 20 per cent are getting more requests from older workers, and 29 per cent are receiving more requests from non-parents.
The survey also suggests that employers see flexible working as a key way to address skills shortages. A further 56 per cent of employers said they are having trouble sourcing people with the right skills - with sectors such as construction particularly affected. Of those who have struggled to recruit people in the past year, 80 per cent had trouble finding people with the right skills, while half had problems recruiting a more diverse workforce.
To reach a wider candidate base, many employers are making clear in their job adverts that they support flexible working. Sixty-two per cent already mention that they are open to flexible working in their job adverts and 71 per cent say they intend to do so in future.
Flexible working is also a factor in recruiting a more diverse workforce. Nearly half - 48 per cent of employers - have been actively trying to recruit more women in the past 12 months and 47 per cent said they aim to actively recruit more women in the next 12 months. Employers are also looking at other sometimes-overlooked pockets of the workforce, including older workers. Twenty-four per cent actively recruit older workers, and 32 per cent think they will need to recruit older workers.
Other results show:
More than a third of employers have turned to freelancers and contractors to fill skills gaps.
18 per cent of employers have a returner programme, but 32 per cent are considering starting one.
68 per cent use social media to recruit - more than the number who use recruitment agencies, but slightly fewer than those who use jobs sites.
57 per cent use LinkedIn to search for jobs sites and recruitment agencies.
Gillian Nissim, founder of workingmums.co.uk, said: "The survey throws up some interesting results. Particularly interesting is the number of employers who say they need more support to deal with the demand for flexible working. This shows that there needs to be some carrot along with the stick of stronger enforcement of flexible working legislation and new rights for employees.
"The world of work is changing very fast and many employers have adapted on an ad hoc basis, which can build up problems for the future. They need help to take a step back and strategise for the future.
"The problem of skills shortages is also providing food for thought for employers and in part driving the targeting of previously overlooked groups. This is reflected, for instance, in the number of employers considering returner programmes. The success of returner programmes is due to employers discovering the rich talent pool that they offer. We hope this is, in turn, making employers more open to different approaches to thinking about the workplace and how to ensure everyone can thrive in it."