Are you ready for flexible working?
One of the biggest workplace trends this year has been the increasing pressure on employers to consider flexible working. Flexible working, meaning a variation of someone’s working patterns, became available for request in the UK in 2014. Although 46% of those in employment have stated that they would like greater workplace flexibility, only 6.2% of roles paying above £20,000 are advertised with flexible working options.
Although the flexible working guidelines only give employees the right to request rather than be entitled to flexible working, it requires employers and hiring managers to asses every request objectively and provide sensible reasons for rejection. Although only 2 years since its implementation, flexible working will become the number one choice for employers by the year 2020, according to a report by the University of Lancaster’s Work Foundation. If the UK is to move forward in the current employment market, businesses need to ensure there are processes in place to enable the transition of employees sitting in a physical office, to employees collaborating effectively from remote locations or outside of the “9 to 5” routine.
The benefits to flexible working are clearly outlined, with 44% of respondents starting that it would enable them to work smarter. Other benefits included:
- The ability to work around childcare commitments
- A significant reduction in commuting time and costs
- More time to spend on hobbies and interests, improving motivation and productivity at work
- Reduction of absenteeism
On the other hand, flexible working could also create a “flexibility paradox” where the benefits only apply to a specific group of people, for example those who have the ability to work from home. There is a danger flexible working could create an “always on” culture, where the lines between work and home become increasingly blurred. Some further disadvantages include:
- Employee isolation
- Communication difficulties
- Increased stress and longer working hours
However, with over 10 million working days lost to stress in the UK last year, companies need to start having discussions around how to encourage a better work life balance, while at the same time become a more attractive workplace for those looking for flexible opportunities.
Other than its effect on employees, flexible working could also impact HR departments. If an employer adopts a new flexible working pattern, that means a complete change in Employment Terms and Conditions, with an employee unable to return to their previous contract unless agreed by the persons responsible. Flexible working could also affect the way HR teams conduct their performance reviews and monitors employee efficiency.
With the majority of people in employment now actively seeking flexible working and millennials now making employment decisions based on flexibility and opportunities for personal development, employers need to ensure they can begin considering whether flexible working could be something which not only increases employee retention, but also drives employee motivation and productivity.
If flexible working is something readily available, managers and recruitment professionals must also ensure they advertise if flexible working would be an option for certain roles. With the current candidate shortage and an increase in the quality of roles, hiring managers must ensure their vacancies stand out from the rest. A 2014 survey by Timewise, highlighted that 91% of managers interviewed would be open to discussing flexible working as an option during the recruitment process.
Have you considered implementing flexible working across your work place and if so, what challenges do you think your business could face as a result? If flexible working is a reality for you, what positive or negative impact has this had on your work-life balance?
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