Flexible Working: the business benefits and best practice

Paul Middlemast, chartered HR consultant; principal of Osprey hrc has written this blog introducing a flexible working and homeworking policy(s) and how it can benefit you as well as your employees.

Flexible working: business benefits

Many employers believe that promoting flexible working makes good business sense and brings the following improvements. Below is a brief overview:

  • a happier, loyal, and more productive workforce, together with a possible reduction of sick days;
  • it is a perk that could encourage talented job-seekers to work for a particular company;
  • it can enable employers avoid redundancies;
  • it shows that a company is progressive and listening to the needs of its staff;
  • there is a cost saving to employers, who may be able to save office rental with more employees working at home;
  • staff can save on commuting time and costs of travel;
  • greater cost-effectiveness and efficiency, such as savings on overheads when employees work from home or less downtime for machinery when 24-hour shifts are worked;
  • the chance to have extended operating hours organisations can handle more business outside normal office hours;
  • ability to attract a higher level of skills because the business is able to attract and retain a skilled and more diverse workforce;
  • greater continuity as staff, who might otherwise have left, are offered hours they can manage; many employers find that a better work-life balance has a positive impact on staff retention and on employee relations, motivation and commitment;
  • high rates of retention means that you keep experienced staff who can often offer a better overall service and recruitment costs are reduced;
  • increased customer satisfaction and loyalty as a result of the above and,
  • improved competitiveness, such as being able to react to changing market conditions more effectively

Flexible working: employee benefits

The main benefit of working flexibly for your employees is that it gives them the chance to fit other commitments and activities around work and make better use of their free time, for example:.

  • Personal matters can be sorted without having to take time off. The kids can be taken to school, the shopping can be done when the stores are less full or employees can get to a concert or football match on time. Experience shows that flexitime provides more scope for employees to attend evening courses;
  • Mothers with young children can hold down a full time job and leave work in time to pick up children. No queues to beat at the end of the day as staff rush out of the door to be first at the bus stop. 
  • Elderly parents their well-being is regularly a cause of worry for their children. With flexible working, more suitable times are now available for employees to visit and care for those who have contributed so much

Introducing a flexible working policy

You should inform and consult employees before you introduce a flexible working policy. This may help them understand how flexible working arrangements may impact on your business.

When planning to implement a policy, you will need to consider the following:

  • What flexible working arrangements will suit the business?
  • How will you deal with applications, e.g. who will attend the meetings and how will the administration work?
  • Are there jobs that might be difficult to do under a flexible working arrangement, e.g. jobs that don’t suit homeworking?
  • How flexible are your IT arrangements, e.g. can employees access their email away from the workplace?

Types of flexible working

The term flexible working covers flexibility in terms of the hours that are worked and the location and includes the following:

Part-time working:

Employees are contracted to work less than standard, basic, full-time hours.

Flexi-time:

Employees have the freedom to work in any way they choose outside a set core of hours determined by the employer.

Staggered hours:

Employees have different start, finish and break times, allowing a business to open longer hours.

Compressed working hours:

Employees can cover their standard working hours in fewer working days.

Job sharing:

One full-time job is split between two employees who agree the hours between them.

Shift working:

Work that takes place on a schedule outside the traditional 9am – 5pm day. It can involve evening or night shifts, early morning shifts, and rotating shifts.

Shift swapping:

Employees arrange shifts among themselves, provided all required shifts are covered.

Self-rostering:

Employees nominate the shifts they’d prefer, leaving you to compile shift patterns matching their individual preferences while covering all required shifts.

Term-time working:

An employee remains on a permanent contract but can take paid/unpaid leave during school holidays.

Annual hours:

Employees’ contracted hours are calculated over a year. While the majority of shifts are allocated, the remaining hours are kept in reserve so that workers can be called in at short notice as required.

V-time working:

Employees agree to reduce their hours for a fixed period with a guarantee of full-time work when this period ends.

Home working/teleworking:

Employees spend all or part of their week working from home or somewhere else away from the employer’s premises.

Sabbatical/career break:

Employees are allowed to take an extended period of time off, either paid or unpaid.

Summary

Ultimately, flexible working arrangements will need to fit into your organisation’s strategic workforce plan. Considering the talent shortage in many countries and the ongoing pressure to attract more young people into the workforce, while retaining the knowledge and expertise of older workers, flexible working arrangements will be critical to your workforce strategy now and for the future. If you are introducing a flexible working strategy you should make sure that it is given the time and thought, associated with implementing any new strategy into the organisation.

Planning should include members of the management team, from the top, down. If management are not convinced that flexible working can benefit the bottom line and improve competitiveness, the strategy will not work. It is a fundamental principal of flexible working that the needs of the business are met.

Professional advice

Whether you are a small business employing only a handful of staff, or a larger company, HR issues will inevitably arise. It is always a good idea to take professional advice from a chartered HR professional such as ourselves. We have a wealth of experience in this area and can assist you in developing and implementing flexible working, contracts of employment, HR policies and strategies’ in your business. If you would like more information and an initial free consultation, please get in contact with Paul Middlemast, principal of Osprey hrc on 07831 427234, or email us at .

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