Flexible working is an ever-growing trend. By the end of 2020, over 4 million people in the UK were in jobs that allowed for flexible working practices. This was, of course, influenced by the Coronavirus pandemic, which forced many people to work from home. Even as restrictions ease up, flexible working is set to stayin the post-Covid workplace. Here’s what it is, why it’s important, and how to make a request for flexible working if you don’t have it already.
Definition of flexible working
Flexible working is an arrangement between employers and employees which gives workers a degree of freedom as to where, when and how they work. Forms of flexible working include:
- Part-time working: This is when an employee’s working hours are anything less than the company’s standard full-time contract.
- Job shares: When two or more people share a role.
- Term-time working: Great for parents, this allows employees to take paid or unpaid leave during school holidays.
- Flexitime: This allows a degree of flexibility as to when staff start and finish their working day. For example, they could choose to work 8-4, or 10-6 instead of the standard 9-5.
- Compressed hours: When someone works full-time hours over a shorter period, for example doing four longer days to make a four day week.
- Remote working: Where staff work from home, or from a different location like a coffee shop, or even from a holiday home.
Benefits of flexible working
As the name implies, flexible working allows employees a much greater degree of flexibility over their working hours and location. There are several potential benefits for both employers and staff.
A greater work-life balance
Being able to choose when and where you work is hugely beneficial for employees and can lead to increased job satisfaction. For people with long commutes, it means that they no longer have to spend several hours of their day travelling and can instead exercise or spend time with friends and family. It’s a huge bonus for parents and carers as well, as it makes it easier to work around school drop-offs and pick-ups, as well as other duties like hospital appointments.
With a better work-life balance comes increased productivity. Many employees feel that they can work more effectively without the distractions of an office, and without commutes to contend with, some workers may feel more refreshed and ready to tackle a day at work. One study found that flexible working produces more engaged employees, with the potential to generate 43% more revenue and improve performance by 20%.
Reduced absenteeism and presenteeism
Flexible working can reduce absence rates as it can allow employees to better balance their workload with disabilities, mental health and long-term health conditions. It can also reduce incidences of presenteeism, where employees show up to work (because they feel like they have to) but aren’t fully focused on the job.
Working from home, working fewer hours, or utilising flexitime can be hugely beneficial for employees with disabilities and long-term health conditions.
More choice for hiring managers
If an employer introduces flexible working practices, particularly remote working, they have access to a much wider talent pool, meaning they can hire the very best employees for each role regardless of location.
Improved employee retention
Flexible working is important at all stages of a person’s career – in fact, a study by Aviva in 2017 found that 63% of employees are more likely to stay with an employer who offers flexible working.
Reduced business overheads
For employers with some employees working from home, overheads can be reduced by introducing a flexible desk booking system. You can have a fewer number of desks, meaning a smaller office space and reduced costs, but staff can quickly and easily book the working space they need when they need it.
How to request flexible working
In the UK, all employees have a legal right to request flexible working, although they must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible.
Employees must make a ‘statutory application’ for flexible working, which must be in writing, and details of what they’re requesting, whether that’s part-time hours, flexitime or compressed hours.
Employers must respond within three months, and if they decline the request, they must give the reasons for doing so.
Creating flexible working spaces
For employers looking to create a flexible working environment, it’s important to have the right technology in place to get the best out of their employees. Find out more about creating flexible working spaces to maximise efficiency and productivity.