Flexible working - Is this a win win situation?

18 / 07 / 18

Gone are the days of 9-5, Monday to Friday at the office, with no deviation from the norm. Instead this has been replaced by more flexible working patterns including the hours we work and the location from which we work. In fact, an incredible 63% of UK employees work flexibly. Consequently, as a business, if you’re not open to flexible working patterns and options, are you limiting your workforce and actually doing your business an injustice? Would you gain more from your employees if they could work alternative hours from home or on a part-time basis? What effect does flexible working have on motivation and job satisfaction? This article aims to discuss how we believe flexible working really is a win win option for both business owners/management and your employees…..

What does flexible working actually mean?

When thinking of flexible working we often think of part-time, perhaps returning to work after maternity leave for example. This is of course a flexible working option, but there are so many more variations as well. This could include the aforementioned part-time working, job sharing, zero hours contracts, early finishes, late starts, selecting your own working hours, condensed working hours, working from home or even hot desking – The list of options just keeps growing. Essentially, flexible working is a pattern to suit an employee’s needs.

Law

There is a right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of employment due to a law passed in 2014 for almost all employees and includes both part-time and full-time employees (although an employee who has already made a request, cannot make another request within the next 12 months). ACAS gives fantastic guidance on the legalities surrounding this subject for both employers and employees

The impact of technology

When did you last sit on a train without checking your mobile phone? Without checking your emails or communicating with your colleagues via social media? Technology has advanced dramatically over the last decade and as a consequence has had a huge impact on the way we work.

The move from on-premise solutions to cloud technology has been a significant enabler when it comes to flexible working. Employees can now access their business applications from a web browser on a phone, tablet or desktop using readily available Wi-Fi and this has opened up a whole new world when it comes to the way we work.

Video conferencing and telephone conference technology means we no longer have to be in the same room with someone to hold a meeting – You can have someone from the UK, USA and from outer space on the call if you so desire and so time and travel restrictions no longer apply. And of course, technology will continue to evolve making the transition to flexible working even easier.

Employee motivation

In one study, 89% of employees claimed that remote working is their number one motivator to boost their productivity at work, compared with 77% of respondents who say financial incentives would motivate them. These are astounding statistics. Alongside this, 81% of workers believe the opportunity to work remotely would also help them to improve their productivity, making a clear link between flexible working cultures and increased business productivity levels.

An interesting motivator is work-life balance – Of course this isn’t a new concept, however it seems to have become more important and apparent over the last decade. For example, a parent wanting to leave early a couple of days a week to pick their child up from school is extremely common and enabling somebody to do this is vital. If you accommodate their working pattern to fit-in with their lifestyle, morale will increase as will their motivation and ultimately output. There’s also evidence which states sickness absence rates decrease as does staff churn, meaning greater continuity of staff and decreased recruitment and training costs.

The bottom line is that if your employees feel that you are supporting them, they are more emotionally engaged, more satisfied with their work, more loyal and committed.

Sustainability

Flexible working also has a positive impact on the environment and can save organisations carbon and money! There just isn’t the need to subject ourselves to an uncomfortable and costly and carbon heavy commute every day. There’s rising pressure on both SME’s and corporates to become (and prove they are becoming) sustainable businesses and this is a great place to start. So not only can a company become more efficient productivity wise, but also lower carbon emissions. A study has shown that working from home for an entire year can, for example, cut your carbon emissions by a whopping 260kg!

The barriers to flexible working

The number one issue here is obviously trust and alongside this, fear of change – But you have to remember, although you may not be able to physically see your employees 24/7, it doesn’t mean they’re not trying and not working hard. However, trust is essential for healthy relationships and is only earned through demonstrating ones reliability, it’s not freely given.

It’s important to measure outputs not inputs. 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. The processing of such data needs including in the company’s employee privacy notice/policy.

As you can see, incorporating flexible working practices into your business holds a whole range of benefits for both your business and employees alike. And, with an increasingly mobile and agile workforce, more employees are asking for flexible working patterns than ever before. Companies don’t just need flexible working policies, flexible working needs to be embedded in the culture, supported by the board but vitally also underpinned by robust IT systems that provide transparency and clarity over who is working where at all times. Only then will flexible working be truly effective.

Flexibility can be used as a strategic tool to support improved individual and business performance through greater diversity, brand competitiveness and employee engagement. You will of course need to consider and balance the cost of implementing any form of flexible working against the needs of the customer and levels of service.

Workplace example:

Natasha had her first child in 2013 and wanted to return to work on a part-time basis to fit in with childcare, the want/need to be a mother as well as continuing with her career. So, she went from 5 days a week to 3 days a week with flexible hours to enable drop offs and pick-ups from nursery:

“A company allowing me to do this made such a difference to my work/life balance, motivation and effort/input’. I felt my employer went over and above to accommodate me and so I go over and above to make sure my work is done to the best of my ability, on time, every time.”

Natasha then went on to have a second child in 2016 at the same time her first was starting school and so requested a further change to her working arrangements. This included school hours on two days and working from home when possible. Natasha had proved herself as a valuable and reliable employee who delivers consistent results and so the change was approved and works extremely well.

Look out for our next article which will advise on how to put together a flexible working policy….

Should you find yourself wondering how to respond to a request, or looking to improve business through flexible working we are here to help, even if you are not a already a client.

To find out how we can help please contact us on 01453 297557 or send an email to enquiries@peepshr.co.uk


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