Friday 6 May is Flexible Working Awareness Day – recognising those companies and individuals who promote the advantages of flexible working.
What does flexible working mean?
Remember the Dolly Parton song ‘9 to 5’? Well, not everyone wants to work between those hours. Or indeed, between other strict working hours set out by the company employing them.
Flexible working can also mean allowing staff to work at home. This might be to finish off a report without interruptions from colleagues or phones, or to accommodate childcare during the school holidays without having to use up days off.
Another flexible working option offered by some organisations is part-time work or job-share.
Why do some people prefer flexible hours?
You’ll know yourself if you are an early bird or a night owl. Some people prefer to get up at the crack of dawn and start work straight away, others find they achieve more if their working hours are later in the day.
While the self-employed often have more flexibility with the hours they work, employed people may benefit from choosing to work the hours when they are most productive.
Another common reason for flexible working is to improve work/life balance. Some parents would like to be able to collect their children from school and finish their working day in the evening after the kids are in bed.
Others may prefer to work longer hours over several days and then take Friday off for a long weekend. Flexible working can also allow employees to avoid rush-hour travel.
What are the commercial benefits of flexible working?
It makes sense for businesses to allow their employees to work during the hours they are most productive.
Permitting flexible working also engenders staff goodwill with a knock-on effect on staff retention – your employees are less likely to leave the company if they can choose their hours. This saves your business the cost of finding a new member of staff and training them up.
It can also save on costs – for example, on overheads when staff work from home.
Any downsides to flexible working?
Some jobs, for example working in customer service, may require employees to be at their desks between set hours. However, it’s often possible for a company to offer flexible working around those set times where staff are needed in the office.
Staff will also all need to be on site at the same time for meetings – although video conferencing can offer an alternative to this.
Offering flexible working can be more challenging for smaller companies with fewer staff. For example, if a member of staff is taking a day to work from home and another employee calls in sick, the business could find itself short staffed in the office.
Businesses offering flexible working may also need to monitor staff output to ensure that they are producing results when working at home or choosing their own hours in the office, as some staff may be more self-motivated than others. Organisations will also need to look at the impact that one employee’s flexible working may have on other staff members.
What are workers’ rights when it comes to flexible working?
Government information on flexible working can be found at: www.gov.uk/flexible-working/overview.
This includes the fact that all employees who have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks have a legal right to make a statutory application for flexible working.
Whether it is granted is up to the employer, although they must handle the request “in a reasonable manner”.
Where to find out more
Other useful resources: