Flexible working in smaller organisations, how can it work?

  • For many employers, flexible working was traditionally seen as disruptive and challenging to manage
  • Many UK organisations embraced flexible working over the last few months to adhere to the UK's stringent measures
  • Here, we outline the benefits and how smaller organisations can help implement flexible working

Once something offered predominately by larger organisations as a privilege, aimed at people returning to work following maternity and adoption leave, the right to request flexible working has been protected by UK law since 30th June 2014. Any employee with 26 weeks’ continuous service is able to make an application to work flexibly for any reason.

For many employers, flexible working was traditionally seen as disruptive and challenging to manage. However, organisations of all sizes, are now embracing flexible working in order to ensure the stringent measures the UK Government has announced around stopping the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) are adhered to.

Types of flexible working

  • Part-time.The definition of part time working, is a type of job that is delivered for less than the normal amount of hours invested, or for less than the full duration that it is typically required. For example, working a 28 hour week, rather than the more customary 35 hours per week
  • Remote working. An individual may request to work remotely from a different location to reduce commuting time or to help meet obligations to care for a loved one or dependant
  • Flexitime arrangements.This is when an employee can vary their start and finish times – but will generally agree to work pre-agreed hours
  • Compressed hours.This entails an employee working the same number of hours, however over a reduced number of days
  • Job sharing.This involves the responsibility for a role being shared by two individuals with an agreement to split the hours – along with the salary and any applicable benefits

Benefits of flexible working

  • Retaining talent. By offering flexible working, smaller organisations become more desirable and increase its chances of retaining top employees. After all, more people are seeking a better work/life balance
  • Increasing engagement and profits. An engaged employee is one more likely to produce their best work – rather than if they are distracted or struggling to cope with the stresses of commitments outside the workplace. Allowing people the flexibility they need, can mean they are more emotionally invested in the success of your business
  • Looking after the mental health of your people. Enhancing levels of health and well-being is not only the right thing to do as a responsible employer – but it also leads to fewer sick days and increased productivity
  • Today’s technology allows for working space to be used more efficiently, reducing costs and helping to increase people performance

Seven ways to help implement flexibility

  1. Offer a range of pre-defined working patterns. By offering different working patterns, for example, 8.00am-4.00pm or 9.30am – 5.30pm, it allows employees to work in a way that suits their individual circumstances. But importantly, these hours still meet your customer obligations – it’s a win-win for all
  2. Provide flexibility on a temporary basis. For instance, offer flexible working on a short-term basis to accommodate school holiday closures or temporary care arrangements
  3. Introduce flexible start and finish times or occasional home/remote working. A little flexibility in times of need, can make all the difference
  4. Leadership and employee training. To enable effective flexible working, the people aspect is key. Adapting to new ways of working requires support and must be embedded into the company culture. ACAS provides free e-learning modules and advice for employees and employers
  5. Produce a flexible working policy. This is important in terms of ensuring all employee requests are approached consistently and fairly. It will also mean you’ve considered the best interests of the company, your stakeholders and your people in a planned and considered way. ACAS provides a free flexible working framework that you can download and adapt
  6. Consider the tech and infrastructure requirements. For example, can a pool of laptops and mobile phones be purchased for temporary home workers? Make use of technology such as video conferencing to help bring distributed teams together. Teams can also benefit from free sharing platforms such as Google Drive and Dropbox – allowing them to create, upload, share and collaborate on files.
  7. Promote good two-way communication. Where issues arise, treat them promptly and work with your employees to resolve. Two-way listening is also crucial