What is flexible working? Gov.uk describe it as "a way of working that suits an employee's needs e.g. having flexible start and finish times or working from home", but what about the needs of the employer?
As flexible working becomes more and more in demand, employers are learning that whilst it may be a challenge to implement at first, it can have some incredible short and long term benefits for both their employees and their business.
Recruitment and Employment trade body REC noted flexible working as one of the top priorities in their recent 'Future of Jobs' report. Their recommendation is that the ongoing need for flexibility in the work force, must be delivered in a way that fairly balances the benefits between workers and the businesses that engage them. So what are the benefits of flexible working?
As an employer, one short term advantage of implementing flexible working is that it can widen your talent pool. Flexible working is hugely attractive to potential employees and having this advertised in your vacancies can attract more candidate interest. According to REC's report, only 6.2% of vacancies advertised currently include any mention of flexible working, this means your vacancy would stand out above the rest and your company would be seen as one that values employee well-being and is embracing a new way of working.
For employees, flexible working means an all-round better work life balance. Employees feel a boost in morale as they feel they are working for a company that values their work / life balance and gives them autonomy.
A boost in productivity has also been noted as one of the benefits of flexible working. Employees have the ability to work when they accomplish most, feel freshest, and enjoy working (e.g. morning person vs. night person).
For employers, long term benefits go beyond increased staff morale and productivity and have been shown to include greater staff retention rates. A happy workforce = a loyal workforce and being flexible can therefore cut down on recruitment and on boarding costs.
Many other benefits have been noted by companies already operating flexible working, such as reduced absence rates and tardiness.
For small businesses, it can feel like an impossible task to implement flexible working but there are several ways of doing this, such as:
Many companies operate core hours allowing flexibility with start and finish times around those hours.
Advertising a role as 'available as a job share' widens your talent pool to also include people looking for part time work.
Working from home
With technological advances, it is now easier than ever for people to work from home and stay connected to their business and colleagues. Offering the option to work from home also means that you are not restricted to the talent pool in your local area and can find experts in their field from far and wide!
The definition of 'flexible working' is just that, it's flexible. Whatever route you choose to take as an employer, it has to work for your employees, your customers and your business.
Some small businesses may not have a flexible working process set in stone but promote a positive, open culture where employees feel they can approach their employers and discuss flexibility as and when they need it.
Every employee has the right to request flexible working, and as an employer it is always best to be prepared and proactive. Full guidelines on employee's rights to flexible working can be found on the ACAS website. You can also download REC's 'Future of Jobs' commission report here.
Flexible working is the future, employers must not fear it, but embrace it. Speak to your employees, find out what they would like to see in terms of flexible working, use that feedback along with your customer demands to create your own flexible working programme to suit your employees and your business.