Flexible working is not only beneficial to employees, but when done well, employers can reap a multitude of rewards as well.
With effective management and a bit of planning, all kinds of businesses can embrace and succeed with a flexible working culture.
Tips For Making Flexible Working Work:
- Equipment management – provide employees with the right tools to do their job remotely and stay in touch such as phones, printers, laptops, instant messaging, scheduling software etc.
- Setting measurable objectives– ensure staff are held accountable for their work, and assess results and their impact
- Trust your employees – trust is essential when it comes to flexible working, as, without it, the whole system can break down
- Create a culture of trust and collaboration – create a supportive environment where employees feel comfortable to ask for help if needed
- Lead by example – Allow your managers to take advantage of flexible working and encourage them to do so
- Reward success – recognise your employees for a job well done, whether it’s in the office or out of it
- Set boundaries – ensure staff understand when they are expected to be available and that their workload is reasonable
- Encouraged time off – ensure employees take regular breaks away from their desks and encourage them to switch off outside of their working hours.
Regardless of the benefits available, it’s important to remember that the ultimate goal of a flexible working policy should be to improve efficiency and productivity whilst ensuring that employees are supported and able to meet the needs of the business.
Read on for some helpful tips and legal considerations to keep in mind if you wish to make flexible working a successful reality for your business,
What Is Flexible Working?
Flexible working is an arrangement that allows a worker to vary their hours of work, place of work or pattern of work.
Regardless of whether flexible working is normal at your place of work, all employees have the legal right to request flexible working if they have been employed with the same employer for 26 weeks or longer.
Flexible working could include any or all of the following working variations:
- Job sharing – Two people do one job and split the hours.
- Working from home – Employees work from home all or part of the time.
- Part-time working – Working fewer hours than is considered normal for a role, either on a permanent or temporary basis.
- Compressed hours – The same amount of work completed in fewer days, with the employee taking a longer break on other days.
- Flexitime – Employees have more freedom over their starting and finishing times, as long as they meet certain criteria (e.g. core hours of say 10 am – 3 pm).
- Annualised hours – Employees work a certain number of hours per year and their shifts can vary from week to week.
- Staggered hours – Employees can choose to stagger their working hours over the day.Why Employers Should Consider Flexible Working Employers should consider flexible
- Phased retirement– Employees gradually decrease their working hours as they approach retirement age.
- Job rotation– Employees rotate between different roles within a company, allowing them to gain experience and skills in different areas.
- Open-ended flexitime – Employees have complete freedom over when they start and finish work, as long as their deadlines are met.
Making Flexible Working Work For Your Business
When it comes to making flexible working work at your organisation, your main role as a business owner and employer is to manage the risk and potential disruption of implementing flexible working in your business.
To do this, you’ll need to consider factors such as how to communicate the change to your workforce, how to ensure fair treatment of staff who choose not to work flexibly, and how to ensure that flexible workers can stay productive.
It’s also important to keep an eye on the legal considerations of flexible working if it’s employees making the request rather than you implementing it, as law states that employers must treat requests for flexible working in a ‘reasonable manner’ and provide a written response within 28 days.
Therefore, to create an efficient flexible working policy, you’ll need to consider factors such as:
- Equipment management – Do you have enough computers, desks, phones and other equipment to support flexible working? If not, you’ll need to make sure that employees who wish to work remotely have access to the necessary equipment.
- Communication – How will you ensure that flexible workers are kept up-to-date with important developments within the company? Regular meetings, or video conferencing, are essential for keeping everyone in the loop.
- Data security – How will you ensure that the data of your flexible workers remains secure and that confidential information is not leaked or shared with unauthorised personnel?
- Training – Do you have the resources and training available to ensure that flexible workers can work efficiently and safely?
- Workplace culture – How will you ensure that flexible workers don’t feel excluded from the rest of their team, or that their views are not taken into account when decisions are being made?
- Outputs not input – It’s important to ensure that flexible workers are judged on their output rather than the number of hours spent at the office. As long as deadlines are met and productivity levels remain high, there is an argument that employees could in theory be able to choose when and how they work as long as fundamental business needs are met.
- Set boundaries with clear policies – It’s important to set boundaries and have clear policies in place from the outset, such as core working hours that must be adhered to, levels of communication, how often office visits are expected etc.
- Strategy & Balance – Flexible working should not be seen as a cost-cutting measure, but rather an opportunity to increase efficiency and productivity, whilst improving work-life balance.
Benefits Of Flexible Working For Employers
When done well, flexible working can provide many benefits to employers, such as:
- Increased productivity – Flexible working gives employees autonomy over their work and allows them to manage their own time, which can lead to increased productivity.
- Improved morale – Allowing staff to have more freedom over when and how they work can have a positive impact on morale, helping to create a more engaged and motivated workforce.
- Reduced absenteeism – As flexible working helps to improve work-life balance, it can help to reduce absenteeism as employees are less likely to take time off due to fatigue or stress.
- Retention of staff – As employees are more likely to feel valued and supported, they are more likely to stay with the company for longer.
- Cost savings – Flexible working can also save employers money in terms of office costs and presenteeism, as less staff is needed to complete the same amount of work.
- Enhanced reputation – Companies that offer flexible working are often seen as more desirable employers, making it easier to attract top talent.
What Do Employers Need To Know About Flexible Working?
As an employer, there are several considerations you must make when implementing flexible working, such as:
- Legal obligations – Employers must ensure that they comply with employment laws and regulations, such as the Flexible Working Regulations.
- Employee rights – Employees have certain rights when it comes to flexible working, such as the right to make a formal request.
- Health & safety – Employers need to ensure that flexible workers are provided with the same level of health and safety protection as office-based staff.
- Data security – Employers must take steps to ensure that data remains secure, and that confidential information is not compromised.
- Training – It’s important to ensure that flexible workers have the necessary skills and training to be able to work efficiently and safely.
As flexible working is here to stay, as an employer, it’s important to make sure that you are taking advantage of the opportunities it offers, and by considering the factors outlined above, you can ensure that you are making the most of flexible working for your business.
How To Manage Flexible Working Requests
When a flexible working request is made, directly by an employee, it is your responsibility to deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ and provide a written response within 28 days, but only one can be submitted in any 12 months. If you fail to follow the correct procedure when managing flexible working requests, you could be taken to an employment tribunal.
Managing the request reasonably could include holding a meeting to discuss the pros and cons of the application and offering an appeals process for a decision made. It’s important to know that you can’t refuse an application unless there is a good business reason, such as the burden of additional costs involved, or being unable to cover certain tasks across the workforce.
With a well-thought-out strategy and the right tools and resources, flexible working can be an effective way to stay competitive in today’s business world. It could even help you attract and retain the best talent. If you would like support with managing and understanding your employer’s responsibilities surrounding flexible working, putting together policies and strategy on the topic, or managing an appeal or employee tribunal, please talk to your Neathouse contact.