Flexibility is being able to adjust to short term change quickly and calmly so that unexpected problems or tasks can be dealt with effectively.
Companies who allow flexible working and have a positive approach to flexibility can be more versatile, resilient, and responsive to change. They can adapt to unexpected demands in the workplace, sudden surges in work or an unpredictable event, such as a cyber security breach, a financial crash or the coronavirus outbreak we are currently experiencing.
Flexible employees are highly prized by companies as they can help to stabilize situations when a crisis strikes and keep objectives achievable and within reach, by supporting colleagues who need advice or help.
According to research done by the Manpower Group, 74% of UK businesses in the last five years have undergone a restructure.
Many companies are now adapting the way they attract and retain staff. By introducing flexible working, it is changing how businesses operate and can provide an edge over your competitors when recruiting.
What is Flexible Working
Flexible Working is modifying the way your employees work to fit within the needs of the business, but also to suit the employees personal circumstances. This could be changing where they work (eg homeworking or an alternative site), or the times they work (eg earlier start or later finish if they have childcare needs or a medical need). This could be on a short term basis for a defined period or on a more permanent basis.
Benefits of Flexible Working for Employers
- Employee retention – By offering flexible working it can strengthen employee loyalty and help to encourage long term commitment, which in turn enhances the company culture and reduces recruitment and training costs for employees.
- Productivity and increased employee engagement– Over worked and stressed employees are more likely to have time off sick, raise a grievance or to quit their jobs. Flexible working helps to tackle stress by promoting a happier more balanced workforce.
- Recruiting – By offering flexible working it can be almost as attractive to new recruits as the pay package. Research carried out shows flexibility is among the top consideration options for employees when looking for a new role. Candidates will prioritise companies that offer flexible working hours as opposed to ones that do not. Home working also widens the location of prospective employees searches as they don’t have to consider travel distances.
- Extended opening hours – By allowing flexible working an employer is extending the company business hours, allowing employees to work out of normal hours makes for a more satisfied clientele.
- Increase innovation and creativity – giving employees the ability to manage their time, do what’s right and focus on the outputs (rather than the input’s) gives people the opportunity to self improve and look for continuous improvement in the business
- Increased trust and good will – where employees feel trusted, they feel more motivated towards the team or business goals and are more likely to go the extra mile
- Diversity and Inclusion – by enabling greater flexibility you attract a wider range of individuals able to work for you, a larger talent pool, and this further increases creativity as individuals from different backgrounds will often view things differently and generate different ideas.
Benefits of Flexible Working for Employees
- Less stress – Commuting is thought to be one of the most stressful events, from traffic jams to packed or delayed trains. Offering flexible working hours gives employees the option to manage their time effectively, spending more time at home with loved ones and less travel time can reduce stress.
- Money Saving – Working from home can eliminate the cost of everyday commutes. Also, it can influence more cost-effective purchasing decisions, such as planning ahead for lunch breaks rather than a last-minute dash to the shop.
- Job satisfaction – Giving employees the freedom to manage their own time can provide an increase in confidence, trust and create a sense of ownership.
- Work life balance – The office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed over 70% of individuals with children are in the workforce, with one in seven employees being responsible for caring for someone. Offering flexible working to employees allows them to balance their commitments in their personal lives with demands of their work life.
- Location – Employees can live where they want to, further from town and cities, and can potentially travel the world while still being available for work.
- Dress Code – working from home can relax dress codes and the cost of new outfits.
Disadvantages of flexible working
The advantages of flexible working outweigh the disadvantages, however it is only right to highlight the disadvantages also so that businesses can understand which flexibility options are right for their business.
- Supervision – Some employees who work from home may need extra supervision to make sure they are productive, it can be easy to get distracted being at home working alone, managers may need to have more frequent catch up calls with employees to ensure their tasks are being completed. This can be achieved with regular structured 1 to 1’s and tracking work outputs and achievements.
- Fairness – When addressing requests for flexible working, employers must ensure that they demonstrate full consideration of the request and are consistent with their decisions. If an employee feels they have not been fairly treated, compared to a colleague, they could make a claim at an employment tribunal for discrimination.
- Communication – across the team can be more difficult with home working or different working hours. By utilising technology and meeting during core working hours team meetings are achievable and will help make everyone feel included.
- Work-life balance – When working from home, the boundaries between home and work can become harder to define, with employees being switched onto technology for longer. They could be working more hours than they are meant to be, sometimes without even noticing. It can be harder to take proper breaks and break away from technology or even the work space.
- Communication – Employees working from home may struggle to feel part of the team, as they do not see their colleagues regularly and sometimes are working outside of the normal working hours, so they can be missed from certain communications and updates during team meetings.
- Social interaction – working from home can reduce social contacts with work colleagues. This could be achieved by starting team meetings with social conversation eg a fun fact about the weekend, or listening to music or the radio to reduce the silence at home.
Legally, employees may apply for flexible working after they have completed 26 weeks of continuous employment. All requests for flexible working must be dealt with in a reasonable manner, which includes holding a meeting with the employee to discuss their request, and demonstrating the employer has fully considered the request.
Coronavirus and flexible working
The coronavirus outbreak has brought with it a huge shift in the way a lot of people work, as temporary working from home has become the norm for millions across the globe. In the UK, most workers feel they can work effectively from home and that industries can operate effectively based on remote work.
Two thirds of employees surveyed by LinkedIn said they are effective when working remotely and 55% said they felt their industry can operate effectively having people work remotely.
Covid-19 has forced employers to temporarily change their traditional thinking and ways of working. Companies who had flexible working options in place prior to the coronavirus outbreak have been able to carry on operating with minimal or less distribution than those who have not.
As workplaces are gradually now starting to re-open after the lockdown, more employers are looking at new ways of working. Moving towards more flexible working would allow employers to reconsider expensive fixed city center office spaces, and look at smaller hot desk or variable meeting spaces.
Working from home and shorter working weeks are a good option in the current circumstances than a mass return to office working. Flexible working may become the new normal as technology such as Zoom, Google Meet and Teams allow video conferencing to take place rather than just phone calls.
Facebook CE has told their employees that it was ‘aggressively opening up remote hiring’ and expects half of the workforce to work outside of the Facebook offices over the next five to ten years. Twitter have also said that their employees can carry on working from home if they wish to. Other big companies such as Google, Spotify, WPP, Amazon and Microsoft have all also said they are increasing how long employees can work from home for and looking at how they operate moving forward.
Working from home Policy
All companies who allow employees to work from home (on a more permanent basis) should have a working from home policy in place.
This policy should cover the following:
- Who can work from home?
- Equipment required and costs – laptop, phone, wifi and broadband speed, desk and chair.
- Health and Safety eg desk and chair configuration, display screen equipment regulations and remote risk assessments.
- Company Security.
- Monitoring Performance.
- Working Hours and breaks.
- Agreements of Home Working.
- Methods of Communication
If you would like further information on Flexible Working or assistance with updating or creating a flexible working or working from home policy, please contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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