Flexible working can take a little organising but it can be a ‘win win’ for employer and employee.
Any competitive edge that a firm can realise over its competitors is worth considering, and the introduction of flexible working is one such potential opportunity that is staring most employers in the face.
It hardly constitutes rocket science and doesn’t have to be costly to implement but it can certainly keep a workforce happy. Indeed, research results released last year by Investors in People revealed that 31% of employees polled would prefer flexible working arrangements, like working from home, to a pay rise. *(1)
Employees can benefit on a range of fronts. They can avoid fuel costs and commuting time and fulfil family needs and personal obligations. They can also enjoy a liberating feeling of personal control over their work load and working environment. Additionally, employers should find it easier to attract and hang onto valued staff and experience a reduction in presenteeism and uptick in productivity as a result of improved employee morale and loyalty.
A client of Chase de Vere, a payroll company with a big office in Surrey, is currently adamant that it is reaping such rewards by allowing all employees to work from home if they want to. It uses advanced technology to monitor whether they are working or not.
Other clients are offering flexitime, allowing employees to have Fridays off in return for working four long days a week, or allowing them to work extra time in lieu of time off for purposes such as taking their kids to the dentist, watching school plays or doing school drop offs and pick ups.
The advantages of an employer affording such flexibility are now more obvious than ever. Employees have said that they wouldn’t have been able to cope with the new responsibilities if their company wasn’t taking such an approach.
It would be wrong to say that flexible working practices were entirely without potential downsides. For example, some employees may find that turning up at an office at set times every day can help to create a clear distinction between work and home life.
There can also be a risk for employers that staff abuse the flexibility they are being afforded. Even if they are being monitored by technology that shows if they are online, anecdotes abound of employees who watch online TV rather than work.
Nevertheless, in our view the pros of flexible working will normally outweigh the cons, especially in business areas where an employee’s progress is heavily dependent on meeting targets – because they have little incentive to slacken off.