The Future Of Flexible Working
It is impossible to ignore the fact that our working habits are evolving and that the traditional employment model is diminishing. Sitting behind a desk from 9am to 5pm is no longer the only option, with increasing numbers of people expecting flexible working.
A recent YouGov survey commissioned by Deloitte and Timewise revealed that only six per cent of working Britons now work the typical 9am to 5pm. Instead, 73 per cent work either part-time or with some form of flexible working arrangement.
Flexible working, once reserved for only a handful of employees, now provides the perfect solution for people’s varying lifestyles, enabling them to strike that all-important work-life balance. Examples of this could include later morning starts, early finishes, remote home working a few days each week or indeed compressed hours whereby someone does their full-time hours over a fewer number of working days. This enables workers to maintain their normal annual earnings while benefiting from the flexibility they need.
The important distinction to make is that flexible working does not mean working less or slacking off, it means honing in on the hours that best suit employees. It therefore comes as no surprise that the Government-led Flexible Working Taskforce, whose partners include the TUC, CIPD and CBI, recently published employer guidance that champions flexibility. This is because all parties are in agreement that flexible working boosts a business’s reputation, morale, productivity and profit margins.
In fact, companies that fail to offer flexible working are perceived to be outdated and not conducive to getting the best out of their employees. In response to this, a great many businesses now actively encourage flexible working and hot desking. Taking this open-minded approach to flexible working will ensure that companies attract and retain the best talent
As a result, flexible working is proving to be more enticing than a salary increase, with people instead preferring to have the option to work from home a couple of days each week. Other softer benefits, including mental health days, life insurance and healthcare, all carry weight when it comes to creating a cohesive and appealing employment package.
This comes hot on the heels of research by corporate gift organisation Adler which found that two-thirds (66 per cent) of employees in the UK believe that the employee benefits offered to them are equal to, or more important, than their basic salary.
The survey of 1,000 UK employees also found that 14 per cent would accept an increase in benefits over a pay rise, while 48 per cent regarded flexible working as their most desired workplace benefit.
Flexible Working Rights
Companies may not actively offer it when recruiting but, after six months in a job, every employee in the UK has the right to request flexible working. While companies are not obliged to agree to a request, they do have to seriously consider it.
Some companies might resist, instead relying on predictable old arguments for not implementing agile working policies; namely that their staff will be less productive. However, the rising popularity of flexible working means that a varied work structure should become the standard model, rather than a special requirement, preventing any bias against candidates who genuinely require a flexible work schedule.
In addition to introducing more talent into the marketplace, flexible working is just one of the ways the modern workforce can work smarter, rather than harder. This is being facilitated by the advance of technology. Laptops and smartphones mean that people can be online and contactable 24/7, no matter where they are in the world. Add to that an entire spectrum of cutting-edge software, and it is easy to see why workers can remain connected to their clients and colleagues without being physically present in the office.
Taking the Leap
Before taking the leap and offering flexible working, be realistic about what employees can achieve on this type of schedule. Take the time to research the right tools and technology to facilitate working productively outside the office. Discuss the decision across all departments to ensure buy-in and understanding and be prepared to adjust and review any subsequent flexible working arrangements. This will result in the perfect work life balance for employees and will in turn maximise the productivity of staff.
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