Nicky Kempston from 'In 2 HR Ltd' says it is easy to see why employees have their reasons for wanting to encourage it with more time for hobbies, less time and cost commuting and reduced stress, but could flexible working really help businesses in the current climate?
Flexible working today
Currently parents of children are entitled to ask their employers for flexible working options.
Large companies are setting the tone; one already has 15% of its 90,000 UK workforce working from home full-time, more than 5% working part-time and they are now looking at jobs like call centres, where it has previously been thought to be too difficult to implement flexible working.
SME's are also starting to embrace flexible working practices, with almost 75% saying they have introduced some form of flexible working. Many people think flexible working has to be about big changes with everyone working from home, but there are many possibilities for flexible working besides the home-working option including:-
- compressed hours
- nine-day fortnights
- flexible start and leave times
- term-time working
- part-time working
- job shares
So what is in it for employers?
A company offering flexible working is likely to attract high caliber candidates in an increasingly competitive labour market. Over the next few decades older people, carers and groups with special needs may form a significant part of the available labour market and flexible working will attract such employees. Businesses able to show that they value their employees will gain an enviable reputation as "Employers of Choice"
Better staff retention
Staff retention and attracting people back to work, particularly maternity returnees, can be a significant benefit given the costs of recruiting and training new employees - money that is wasted if they then move on. In the Mother@Work survey 54% put 'working away from the office' as the top benefit they want from a job, ranking it above receiving a pension (44%) or annual bonus (36%).
Improved business performance
A business with flexible working hours can meet customers' needs more readily as extended working hours can be organised to meet customer peaks and troughs. Employees will spend less time commuting and so they will have more time available to deal with personal matters, such as dentist appointments or domestic repairs, without taking time off from work.
Increase employee productivity
Giving employees more control over their work-life balance often results in their being more productive during each working hour, work-related stress is reduced and job satisfaction is improved. One recent virtual call centre pilot reported call handling increased by 20% and "absenteeism" of home workers was reduced to 20% below the average. Home working can also reduce those time-wasting activities that inevitably arise within the office environment.
Reducing the number of desks in the office and using them more effectively means smaller office spaces are required, perhaps removing or delaying the need to move to larger premises to remove overcrowding issues. 'Hot-desking' can be organised for those employees normally working remotely and flexibly so they can spend some time in the office.
Inevitably there are challenges with trust that people are not working hard enough being the major concern about those staff working from home. However, there are ways to deal with this and ensure the work is still being carried out properly by managing home-workers just like they were in the office. After all, how do you know that the people who are physically in the office are actually working hard? Most people do want to do a good job and so it is just a case of having the correct systems in place to ensure you are managing them properly.
The legislation looks set to encourage more workers to balance their lives between home and work whilst encouraging more parents to return to work after starting their families. Smaller businesses can take advantage of their ability to be less formal and offer flexible working where larger companies may not be able too.
If you would like to know more about how to implement flexible working in to your workplace then contact Nicki on 01628 622722 or via the website www.In2HR.co.uk.