The pandemic was positive in one way. Employees and employers are both waking up to the need for healthy work-life integration. One of the most effective ways for that is a properly managed flexible working program.
What is Flexible Working?
Flexible working is a way of working that alternates the hours worked to suit the needs of the employees. Employees who have worked for the same employee for at least 26 weeks have the legal right to request flexible working.
In 2014, the Flexible Working Regulations 2014 came into effect to expand flexible working rights for employees in England, Scotland and Wales. These regulations extended the right to request flexible working arrangements to include all employees, not just those with parental and caregiver responsibilities.
Employers have to consider all requests, but they can refuse flexible working requests on business grounds.
The Different Types of Flexible Working Hours
Flexible working involves different ways of altering the standard working hours. There are different amendments to the standard working week or time that can be implemented.
This is where employees work core hours but they have the flexibility to choose their start and finish time. They can easily have a later start or an early finish without having to apply for time off. This is a great way of ensuring that your employees are working together at a given time and they do not miss important meetings. Flextime can help reduce the stress level of your employees and in turn provide a more equipped and efficient team.
There are different ways Flexitime can operate in a firm. One way is to allow employees to build up those additional hours which they can then use to leave early, come in at a later time or take extended time off. On the other hand, employees may have the freedom to choose usually between set limits when to begin and end work. There should be a set core time in which employees will be required to work outside of this; the employees may choose whether to work or not.
This is one of the most common types of flexible working. This is where employees are contracted to work less than full-time hours. The government describes a part-time worker as someone who works less than thirty hours a week. They should not be treated less favorably than their colleagues doing the same work. Part-time work is an effective way to cover for full-time employees when they go on lunch breaks and it also a good way of covering weekends and night shifts. Part-time work also increases the workforce as full-time students, for example, are able to take advantage of it.
Job sharing is a type of part-time work where a full-time job is shared by two or more employees. They share the work time, the pay as well as the benefits. For this to work there has to be a great team spirit amongst the people sharing the job. The time, pay, and benefits do not have to be split evenly and one person can take a larger portion. As an employer, you benefit from having two professionals for the price of one because each individual has something different to bring to the table.
This is a flexible working system where employees are allowed to work the same number of working hours but compressed into a shorter time. For example, if an employee normally works six hours a day, five times a week, the staff may decide to work seven hours thirty minutes a week for four days. The employee can equally start early and have a late finish to create additional hours. This may help the employee have a better work-life balance.
This is a flexible working system where there is a fixed number of hours to be worked per annum but it is up to the employees to plan their daily and weekly work schedule. Employees may decide to work over the weekend and take time off during the week. The contracted time to work with the employee is split into two: the set shifts and the unallocated shifts. The set shift covers a large amount of the year while the unallocated shift involves times the employee can be asked to work at a short notice.
Zero hours Contract
A zero-hour contract is a flexible working employment contract where no minimum working hours are provided, and there is no guarantee of actual work. In this contract, the worker has no obligation to accept any work hours you offer to them. Hours can range from a full working week to zero hours in a week depending on the need of the employer. The unpredictable nature of this contract means that it does not suit every type of work. It is maybe suitable for people who can be entirely flexible about working times. Employers are also under no obligation to provide work for employees under this kind of contract.
Work from Home
We have seen this rise in recent times due to COVID-19 and there is a high chance that new firms will adopt this kind of employment relationship. Technology has made this kind of employment relationship more common and convenient.
This flexible working employment contract can apply to full-time and part-time work. It does not mean that all work is carried out from home but that all or part of their duties is carried out from home. It requires trust and confidence to work. This kind of flexibility may increase productivity and lead to high-quality work.
Staggered hours is a flexible working system where an employee works a similar number of hours to their colleagues but with different working times. The employees do not have to commit to any core hours and have the flexibility to plan a work schedule that fits their needs. They may decide to have a later start or an early start or work on the weekends. The work schedule is entirely up to the employee but it must match up the required number of hours.
Benefits of Flexible Working
Flexible working is not just beneficial to the employees but also to you as the employer. The online marketing manager for Blossoming Gift speaks about how flexible working creates a relaxed environment in the office. This change in the work-life balance of employees will quickly lead to increased productivity. As a result of this employees begin to produce better quality work and this has a positive effect on the business.
Regus, a global workspace provider in a 2012 study found that 72% of businesses were experiencing increased productivity and this was a direct result of flexible working. So, while it benefits the employee, the business is not left out.
Employers Guidelines for Managing Flexible Working
Start with a Trial Period
One way to introduce flexible working in your company is to start with a trial period. This gives the employee the chance to prove that they can be trusted with the advantage. During this time the benefit to both the employer and the employee can be analyzed to see if it is sufficient enough to make them worthwhile. A trial period will also enable you to weigh the pros and cons of implementing it. In addition, it also gives the opportunity to test out without any commitment to the different types of flexible working and see which works best in the business.
Go Beyond a Yes or No Answer
Refusing a flexible working request is not as simple as saying no. Maintaining your business status quo is not a good enough reason for refusing one. You should fairly consider each individual request and provide a justified reason for refusing an application. Saying no without providing proper justification can be considered discrimination. Also, if the reply is ‘no’ you can suggest an alternative where possible that can be beneficial to both parties.
Understand and Consider the Employee’s Point of View
Before deciding on an employee’s flexible working application, it is important to sit with the employee and hear them out. Analyze the different reasons they provide for wanting it and try as much as possible to include them in your decision-making. This might be harder when you have previously operated with a strict working hour, however, it might be beneficial to you to consider the employee’s view and implement it where possible to avoid having a demoralized staff. Having a face-to-face conversation with your employee may cause you to understand their view better and you may also find that flexible working will benefit you as well.
Consider the Role and Personality of the Employee
Some roles involve face-to-face supervision and may require the physical presence of the employee or a team. For such a role it may not be ideal for the employee to work from home. Working from home also may not suit all personalities. Some people may require a work environment to work effectively and working from home may be distracting. This is why it is important to have a trial period to see where flexible working can apply and what personality type it works best with.
Maintain a Good Relationship with your Employee
If not properly handled situations like this can negatively affect your relationship with the employee. This is why it is important to lend them an ear and be more accommodating to their flexible working request. Failure to deal with a flexible working application fairly can create a workforce that is less productive as their morale flags. This, in turn, will affect the efficiency of the business. So as much as you possibly can listen and accommodate the needs and requests of the employee to maintain a good relationship.
Communicate the Flexible Working Procedure
One key to an effective flexible working strategy is clear communication. Most times businesses spend so much time implementing a new strategy but yet it is not effective simply because of lack of communication. There should be a communication strategy in place. This can be a newsletter, notice board email, or any other effective means of communication. See to it that your employees are clear about what is expected for them and the company’s procedure on flexible working. Do not make assumptions that they are already aware of, your view on it might be different from theirs so effective communication is important.
Train Employees and Managers on Flexible Working
It is important to train employees on the company’s procedure for flexible working and how to make an application. It is also important that they are aware of the process involved and how their application will be dealt with. Managers should also be trained on how to handle working flexibility. Train managers to be transparent about the company’s flexible working policy with the staff. Also, train them effectively on how to review an application and the things to consider so there is no perceived discrimination.
Create a Safe Environment for Flexible Working and Provide the Right Tools
If as part of the flexible working you are going to create a system where employees can work from home this does not relieve you of the obligation to create a safe working environment for your employees. Whether it is a physical location or not this requirement still stands. You have to ensure that the home office is as safe as possible for the employees and also that the tools and software necessary to aid employees to work from home are provided. Communication technology, emails, online conference calls, and other necessary tools should be provided to aid cohesion.
Is Flexible Working Right for Your Business?
Flexible working is beneficial not just to employees but also to you as the employer as it increases productivity and possibly revenue. It is important to carefully consider the employee’s point of view when reviewing a flexible working application. You should also have a reasonable justification for refusing an application. Where you are still unsure of flexible working you can have a trial period to see what works for your business. When you do decide on flexible working it is important to have an effective communication strategy and proper training.