Flexible working

Offering staff flexible working arrangements has previously been an overlooked business consideration. However, having a productive workforce in place has become increasingly important as companies strive to be more competitive.

The traditional working week of nine to five from Monday to Friday is gradually becoming a thing of the past and having strict working hours in place is now inadequate to meet the demands of modern day practices and no longer an option with the new flexible working legislation. Yet despite this, many companies are still failing to recognise how incorporating flexible working patterns, such as flexi-time and home working, into their strategies can have a profound impact on their business’ efficiency and overall success.

But why is this? Part of the problem is that the myth that senior jobs can only be done full-time in an office still persists in many organisations. A workforce that works flexible hours rather than set times brings with it managerial challenges and many feel that it is simply easier to monitor and motivate staff with a physical presence in the office.

In the case of home workers, an underlying stigma that staff will simply have lie-ins, watch daytime television all day and do nothing still remains strong when in fact the reality is quite the opposite. While adopting home working practices means it is difficult to oversee employees at all times, fewer distractions and less commuting time to the office can result in staff getting more work done. According to the Department of Business Innovation and Skills predictions, the new working regulation will bring an overall economic benefit of £475m through improved business efficiency and employee satisfaction in its first decade.

Prior to the flexible working regulation, which came into effect on June 30, 2014, about 10% of the UK’s small or mid-sized businesses had flexible working in place. And according to a Regus survey, 76% of small and mid-sized businesses said their company was more productive as a result of it.

And this figure will possibly rise considerably in the near future as businesses have to reassess their current working methods and begin to recognise the diverse benefits of adopting smarter working practices. Businesses need to accept that it is outputs that matter; how and where they are achieved should not be an issue.

For companies looking for a competitive edge, adopting a flexible approach can prove to be an extremely welcome addition and worthwhile investment. Permitting employees to work office hours that suit them, or at home if need be, opens up the possibility for organisations to employ high calibre staff from a wider pool of applicants.

It is also a good way to improve staff morale and improve the retention of employees, especially those with childcare responsibilities and mothers on maternity leave who are often driven out of work from companies where rigid working hours are in place.

Good flexible working arrangements need planning but need not be difficult. Phasing in a flexible working pattern on a small scale can allow companies to experience the benef  its first hand. Often splitting time between home and the workplace is the most productive solution as it keeps staff involved and doesn’t isolate them from employee relations. One way to phase the system in is to invite staff to experiment compressing their hours to see if such a system works for them.

The way people work is rapidly changing and for many employees it is now completely different to how they worked only a few years ago. Employers need to be increasingly open and creative in their employment practices. Whether this is accommodating employees’ working hours or allowing them to work from home, the opportunities in allowing staff to have the smallest of freedoms has proved worthwhile.

James Manning is business development manager at AUTO:TIME Solutions www.autotime.co.uk