Flexible working used to be something that only part-time workers or freelancers would have any access to. Everyone else, the ‘traditional’ employees, would be expected to work set hours over specific days, usually 9 to 5, Monday to Friday.
This latter way of working is something that is certainly falling out of favour with employees, and flexible working is much more acceptable; it’s not unusual to see a job advert proclaiming that candidates can look forward to a variety of different flexible working ideas including job shares, shift work, or even remote working.
What Is Flexible Working?
Flexible working is a wide concept that includes a variety of different ideas. In essence, though, it allows the employee to work where and when they want to, as long as they get the work done by a predetermined deadline and as long as they are present for important events such as meetings from time to time. Of course, each employer is going to interpret the idea of flexible working differently, and it is down to the employee to decide whether or not they agree with that interpretation, and whether or not that way of flexible working is going to suit them and their lives.
- Part-time working
- Fully remote working
- Part remote working
- Compressed working hours (you could work 40 hours over four days rather than five, for example)
- Shift work including split shifts (what is a split shift? It’s when the workday is split into two parts – you might work from 5am until 9pm and then from 12pm until 4pm, for example)
- Job sharing
- Early starts or late finishes
It might seem as though any or all of these examples of flexible working are only ever going to benefit the employee; after all, they are getting to enjoy a good work-life balance whereas the employer is having to work hard to ensure everyone is doing what they should be doing. However, there are additional benefits that the employer can make use of as well. Read on to find out what they are.
Better Staff Retention
When you allow your employees to work flexible hours or shifts, to work from home, to start early or finish late, and so on, you are going to find that they are much more likely to stay loyal to your business and continue to want to work for you. After all, they can fit their work around their personal lives in this way, rather than the other way around which can be stressful and upsetting, even to the point where it can damage mental health.
Knowing that they are being taken good care of, that their wellbeing is important, and that they can work in a way that suits them, means they will want to continue to work for you, and won’t look around elsewhere for other jobs that will give them a better standard of living.
In 2018, a survey showed that around 80 percent of workers would choose a job that had a flexible schedule over one that was more rigid but paid more. This is yet another clear sign that flexible working is something that is gaining momentum and that will benefit your business in the end.
Attracts Better Talent
It’s clear that many job seekers are looking for flexible working, but those without many options may well decide that they will forgo this idea and apply for a job with a less flexible company simply because the job description matches their talents better. Therefore, these less flexible companies are going to be attracting lower quality candidates which will have a knock-on effect on the business as a whole.
However, candidates with a lot more experience and talent know that they don’t have to settle. If they want flexible working, that’s what they will wait for. Essentially, it means that the better candidates will apply for your positions if they see that you are giving your employees more flexible working hours, and that is only going to benefit your business, not hinder it in any way.
Let’s also think about remote working specifically in this situation. If you are in a fixed location and you need employees to come to you, those who live further away but who would actually be ideal for the position, those who would fall into the ‘top talent’ bracket, won’t apply. Why should they think about moving home just to get a job when they know they have the skills to find another job nearby?
However, if you offer remote working, those same candidates won’t have to worry about where you are, or where they are. You’ll get a much better range of candidates allowing you to pick the very best, rather than having to settle for someone who doesn’t quite fit with what you’re looking for but who lives close to your office.
Something that often puts employers off the idea of introducing more flexibility into their working days is that they think it will make their employees less productive. If they can’t be there to keep an eye on things, or if the employee needs flexible working due to their family life, for example, the employer could easily feel that they will be less focused and that less will be done overall.
This is the opposite of what happens in most situations. Flexible working actually boosts productivity and therefore makes the business into a much more successful one. How does this work? To begin with, workers who are at home don’t have a long commute to deal with, and they can sleep for longer so they are much more rested and will be more alert when working (getting more done because of it). Plus, because they do have more time, they will often work a little longer – studies suggest that, on average, a home-based employee will work 16 days extra each year compared to one who is based in an office and has strict hours to keep.
Plus, there are fewer distractions at home. Home-based employees won’t be interrupted by their colleagues, by fire alarms, by needing to get outside for some fresh air, and so on. Yes, there might indeed be distractions at home, but as long as the worker can compartmentalize their working day, these won’t be such an issue.
As for employees who don’t work from home but who do have a flexible schedule, will they be more productive too? The answer is yes. They will be more productive because they will be happy to work harder, knowing their workplace is a caring one and that their lives are well balanced; there will be no burnout and no stress.
Allowing your team to work flexibly can help you with your ongoing business costs, reducing them drastically in some cases. The most obvious way this can be done is if people work from home. You don’t then have to pay for a business premises, which is a huge cost-saving exercise.
However, even if you don’t offer remote working but instead work on a shift basis or compressed hours (perhaps because you run a shop, for example), you can still save money. Your employees will be much less likely to take a sick day because they have a good work-life balance and can schedule everything as they need to. They will also ask for less holiday since they get more time at home anyway.
Flexible working also has a greater benefit to the planet when you consider the implications of it; there will be less pollution. Remote workers aren’t using their vehicles or public transport at all, and those who are working flexible hours in a workplace are often using them less. All in all, flexible working is a good thing for everyone involved.