Flexible working is one of the hottest topics for employers and HR in 2015. There are a number of reasons for this including: the pending skills shortage as we enter an aging workforce, increased costs of office space, advances in technology and BYOD, traffic and transport costs, company profitability, changes to the law and new regulations and a greater desire for the working population to have that work-life balance.
Recently we have very quickly moved from an employer-lead market to a candidate-lead market. This means that if employers are going to be competitive in their space and hire the best talent to their businesses, then considering and offering flexible working opportunities will help them stand out as an employer of choice and attract better quality applicants to their company.
From the 30th June 2014, all employees have the right to request flexible working and all employers must deal with requests in a reasonable manner. Flexible working is a way of working that suits the employees needs such as flexible start and finish times or the ability to work from home. ACAS has produced a number of guides to help employers not only operate within the law but to ensure good practice too. You can access these here.
Why should you promote flexible working?
By offering flexible working and promoting this as part of your culture, brand and recruitment initiatives will reap benefits in attracting a wider pool of talent as you offer the work-life balance and work on terms that suit your employees. It will also have an impact on your productivity levels too as you will find that your employees are more motivated and engaged with your business. According to the CIPD nearly half of employees take work phone calls or respond to work emails outside their core hours of work and most employees say it is their choice. By becoming more flexible and working with your employees on a give-and-take basis, it will offer your business the chance to adapt more quickly to change and meet customer demands.
There are still many negative perceptions of flexible working ingrained in the workplace and unfortunately, many managers still assume that flexible workers are not as committed as their regular hour’s counterparts. A culture of trust is required to implement true flexible working and many organisations do not have this embedded within their business which means that any flexible initiatives could be counter intuitive.
Flexible working could be hours, contracts, place of work, job sharing, hot desking, temporary workers, shift workers or compressed working weeks. There are lots of ways you can embrace a flexible working culture, but be careful that you don’t just change the start and finish times or the number of hours worked as this approach can create more issues for your business. All you are doing is creating new fixed working patterns which might require further negotiations with the employee at a later date and may result in negativity and a sense of unfairness throughout the team.
Flexible working does not only have potential negative connotations for the employer, but the employee may also feel nervous and unsure about changes in working the usual way. Perhaps those with high overtime earnings will feel they are reducing their take home pay if they switch to annual salaries, working from home may make people feel isolated or they may feel guilty about the impact of their new working hours on their colleagues.
Remember, flexible working must benefit everyone; the employee, the company and the team.
What can you do?
Drafting a flexible policy is a great way to start. But, first of all, think about why you want to make the changes and what you and your employees want to gain from the changes. Consider your business, your customers and the impact that this may have on your production, suppliers or contracts. Do some extensive research, consult with your management and your staff, check the law and perhaps look at a trial period first allowing you to monitor and make changes before it is embedded in your culture.
Once you have the basis for the policy, consider what your options are, how you are going to implement them, what review procedures you are going to follow and what measurement of success you are going to use.
In summary; flexible working has great opportunities to improve lots of areas of your business and improve your employee happiness scores too. However, it needs to be done right, with thought and for valid reasons. As we said before, flexible working must benefit everyone.
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