Employees across many industries often seek a better work-life balance through flexible working. This can take many forms, including job-shares, working from home, compressed hours and flexitime. Working outside traditional hours or from alternative locations gives people more control over their lives. It might help them spend more time with their families, cut childcare costs, avoid time-consuming rush-hour travel or improve their physical and mental health.
As of June 2014, all UK employees have the right to discuss flexible working hours with their employer. As a business owner you don’t have to agree to every request, but you need to have a good reason for rejecting one. Be sure to check the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) for guidance on flexible working.
Why introduce flexible working?
There are many reasons why your business should make the move to a flexible working environment:
- Many surveys have shown that employees who work for businesses offering flexible working are more engaged, motivated and loyal.
- Flexible working is key to attracting and keeping top talent, especially in the case of people with childcare commitments. Working arrangements that fit around the school run, nursery or childminders are vital in supporting parents to continue their careers.
- A 2013 study by Vodafone UK found British businesses could potentially save £34 billion by freeing up desk space with flexible working and hot-desking.
- Employees with flexible working hours are healthier and less stressed. Employees who have flexible start times also show improvements in psychological wellbeing compared to those who start at a fixed hour. This, in turn, has the potential to reduce absenteeism and improve performance.
How to make flexible working work for you
It’s important to plan carefully and to think about how flexible working will affect customers, partners and suppliers.
- Start with a three- or six-month pilot scheme.
- Draw up guidelines and goals in advance. Flexible shouldn’t mean ad-hoc or disorganised.
- Make sure you have enough staff to cover core working hours.
- Don’t assume everyone wants to work flexibly; regular hours might be best for some, so be open to discussion.
- Flexible working is all about individual needs. For example, if an employee has a long commute, consider allowing them to start their working day during their journey.
- Inspire managers and team leaders, and discuss any doubts they might have.
- Make sure everyone has the necessary technology to work flexibly and remotely.
- Think about your office space – can you reduce fixed desks and create breakout areas that promote collaboration?
- Once your pilot has launched, conduct regular reviews, gather feedback from participants and be prepared to make adjustments if needed.
Flexible working can help your employees do their jobs in the way that suits them and, ultimately, your business best. People who experience fewer conflicts between work and personal commitments are more productive and less likely to be absent. Employees who feel trusted to manage their own working patterns are more likely to be loyal. Last but not least, you could save space and cut costs by reducing permanent workstations.
Speak to our small business team to find out more.