Earlier this month we featured an article which looked at the different types of flexible working and how this way of working has become more accessible due to the impact of technology and the positive effects on employee motivation, productivity and output. But how do you go about actually implementing a flexible working policy to make this work for both you, the employer and your employees? The following article looks at the 5 steps to implementing a policy to enable you to embrace a more contemporary way of working. And what’s more, it may not be as complicated as you might think….
Before you do anything, ensure your business is geared-up for flexible working and this is heavily reliant on technology and process. It’s imperative to ensure you invest in the appropriate technology and services – As mentioned in our previous blog: ‘Traditional workplace controls are less effective with flexible working. The solution lies in supporting technology, communication, teamwork, clear aims, objectives and outputs. Technology such as a cloud based Rota System gives the team visibility of where every member of staff is and cloud based Time & Attendance systems can record where everyone actually is via GPS.’
Trust isn’t about simply turning up to work……Healthy relationships rely on trust and are earned through mutual respect and value. Employees shouldn’t have to be in an office for managers and peers to believe they’re actually working. Similarly, being first in and last out doesn’t mean that someone is working harder or better, an employer needs to evolve the way they’re measuring performance to focus on productivity and output, not hours and minutes.
Communication is key and if someone is working remotely for example, without physical connection, it can be easy for employees to feel disconnected from their colleagues and vice versa. Therefore, it’s important to establish effective communication channels. Larger companies often have Internal Communications resource situated within their Human Resources or Operational Development Team. However, smaller companies won’t have this pleasure and so in this situation it’s up to the Business Owner to ensure communication is at the forefront of their flexible working strategy.
Again, technology will play a critical role in reinforcing company culture and driving employee engagement and provides a means of displaying and disseminating company culture throughout an organisation. HR Software often provides an area where employees can recognise their colleagues for a job well done and another area where they can share their ideas and invite discussion amongst their colleagues.
This may sound rather simple and obvious, but make sure you make flexible working optional for your employees, because it isn’t for everyone. Taking remote working as our example again, I know a number of individuals who just couldn’t work from home as to them, there would just be far too many distractions. Or there may not be a suitable space for them to work from with young children around; it may just be the wrong working environment. It could simply be that working from home just isn’t for them because they need consistent face-to-face contact with people and prefer being in a traditional office environment.
We should also consider that smaller businesses and business start-ups may not even offer the option of working from an office and may prefer to employ individuals on a self-employed or zero hours contract. More often than not, businesses at the start-up stage don’t utilise an office and revenue / cash flow is potentially unclear, so the commitment to full-time employees may not be a priority.
If this is new territory for you,, it’s important to make sure you communicate your flexible working options to your existing employees, as well as ensuring you have a robust written policy in place (which we will cover in Step 5). Dependant on the size of your business, this could include 1-2-1 meetings, internal video content, workshops, content on internal collaboration platforms, internal email marketing, cascading of information through management layers or newsletters and of course will include communication of the flexible working policy itself.
In an ideal world, your communication plan would include a mix of some/all of these channels, but is dependent on the size of company, resource and technology. As a Business Owner, Manager or HR Manager, first determine who you’re targeting with your communications and map the most effective channels to reach these individuals. Certain HR Software enables you to share company documents with employees. It’s always a good idea to measure the success of your communications plan and gather employee feedback to aid improvement in the future.
In addition, think about communicating your flexible working arrangements in your recruitment strategy and communications because this is a huge selling point for candidates and will increase your talent pool. So, ensure you promote this on job adverts and throughout the interview process.
Also, promote this to your customers and clients. The fact you actively encourage flexible working is a great marketing tool, so make sure you shout about it loud and proud to clients.
Of course you need a written policy to underpin your flexible working culture and to ensure each and every employee is clear on the process and what you as an employer and they as an employee have to work to. Typically this would include the following:
Make sure you give a clear explanation of flexible working and the different types available to employees. For example, part-time working, job sharing, zero hours contracts, early finishes, late starts, selecting your own working hours, condensed working hours or working from home. Explain each of these in detail.
This section should explain that flexible working isn’t necessarily appropriate for all roles and should detail the criteria (i.e. costs, structure, resources, technology etc.) the business will take into account when considering flexible working.
Essentially any employee with at least 26 weeks of employment service has a statutory right to request flexible working.
An eligible employee is entitled to submit one flexible working request in a twelve month period (an employee is entitled to additional requests if they relate to a statutory entitlement e.g. the Equality Act 2010 right to request reasonable adjustments). Make sure you also include here what the request must include, for example: date of application, the changes they are seeking to their terms and conditions, the date they would like it to come into effect, the effect the employee believes it will have on the organisation, how the effects should be dealt with, whether it’s a statutory or non-statutory request, If a previous application has been made and the dates of these applications.
For example, when these will be held and who will be in these and should be in these. Employees, can for example, be accompanied by colleague or representative.
How and when the Business Owner, Manager or HR Manager will respond to the request. You should state that each request will be considered on a case-by-case basis and they will be informed by ‘X’ date in writing. It could be granted on a temporary, trial basis or permanently and the employee will receive a confirmation letter if granted which will include details of the new arrangements as well as a new employment contract.
How an employee can appeal the decision if their request is refused or only agreed to in part. This should include the process and timings.
Where there is some uncertainty about whether the flexible working arrangement is practicable for an employee and/or the organisation a trial period may be agreed. If a trial period is arranged the organisation will allow sufficient time for an employee and their manager to implement and become used to the new working practices before taking any decisions on the viability of a new arrangement.
Ensure you give employees a process to follow should they have any complaints, including contact names and email addresses, etc.
Flexible working can certainly be a win - win for both the employee and the employer but as you can see from the above, it’s imperative you have the right processes, policies and technology in place before making this part of your workplace culture. As with anything, planning and preparation is vital so that you can reap the benefits of flexible working, including improved employee satisfaction, motivation and greater productivity.
We appreciate this can be a rather daunting task, especially when you’re trying to run your business, so this is where we can help. We hope we have uncovered the key steps you need to make flexible working a success within your business, however, should you want further support with this process, please do contact us on 01453 297557 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.