Are you on board with flexible working?

11 October 2017

Are you on board with flexible working?

Executive In Home Office

As a senior manager, it’s important that you try to meet all the needs of your employees and satisfy the laws and regulations that apply. One such law is The Right to Request Flexible Working, which was introduced just a few years ago in 2014. Since then, flexible working has become a popular option among both employees and employers, with 83% of employers who have adopted flexible working stating that it has benefitted their business. 

Read on to find out more about flexible working and what you need to do to stay compliant.

What Is Flexible Working?

Flexible working gives employees a certain degree of flexibility, agreed with by their employer, over the hours and days they work, or even the location they work in. There are many variations of flexible working, including:

  • Job sharing – Splitting hours and responsibilities of a single job role between two people.
  • Working from home – Completing some or all work from home or another location outside of the workplace.
  • Part-time working – Working fewer days per week or fewer hours per day than full-time.
  • Term time working – Taking paid/unpaid leave over the school holidays.
  • Compressed hours – Working the same number of hours, but compressed over fewer days.
  • Flexitime – Deciding, within reason, what hours are worked each day.
  • Annualised hours – Working a set number of hours over the year which can be worked flexibly.
  • Self-rostering – In shift-work occupations, employees may state their preferred working times. Rotas will then be decided with these preferences in mind, honouring employees’ requests as much as possible.

What Are The Benefits Of Flexible Working?

There are a number of benefits of allowing flexible working in your business, and they’re not just for your employees. You and your company will also benefit from the effects flexible working has on your employees. Here are a few key benefits you and your employees could enjoy:

Better Work-Life Balance For Employees

The most common reason for employees requesting flexible working is to improve their work-life balance. A study of 500 managerial level employees found that 35% considered flexible working as essential to maintaining a good work-life balance. Having control over when and where they work can give employees more time to spend with their family and doing the things that they love. This greater degree of control can boost job satisfaction, meaning your employees are happier working for you.

Improved Health And Wellbeing

More flexibility means your employees also have more time to look after themselves, and flexible working has been linked to improved health. Perhaps working flexibly gives them time to fit in a gym session twice a week that they didn’t have time for previously. This can be good for both physical and mental wellbeing. Plus, by avoiding driving or commuting during rush hour, employees will experience less stress.

Boosted Morale

Giving your employees control over their working life is sure to boost their morale in the workplace because they are working in a way that suits them. Almost all respondents (90%) in a survey of 2,200 business owners and senior managers believed that flexible working boosts morale. With this comes higher employee engagement, which can help to improve performance and reduce employee turnover, so you can retain your top staff.

Higher Productivity

All the benefits already mentioned also lead to a more productive workforce. If your employees are happier and more engaged with their work, then they’ll work more efficiently. If one of your employees isn’t a morning person, then they’re unlikely to get much done at 8am. So, they might be happier and more productive if they’re allowed to start work at 10am instead. 61% of UK workers believe that flexible working could boost their productivity, and higher productivity generally equates to bigger profits for your business.

Fewer Absences

We’ve already mentioned the improvements to your employees’ health, wellbeing, and stress levels. With this comes fewer workplace absences as your employees are less likely to become sick. Stress is the leading cause of absenteeism, so giving your employees the flexibility to avoid highly stressful situations, such as rush hour traffic, can be a big help. 

Attract Top Talent

When it comes to executive recruitment, showing that you allow flexible working can be a real attraction to candidates. Maybe the person who’s perfect for your job is looking for an employer who will allow them to work from home two days a week. You could miss out on this top talent if you ask for strict 9-5 office hours.

Even if candidates aren’t looking for flexible hours, allowing flexible working shows that you are a reasonable and understanding employer, highlighting your company as one that’s desirable to work for. In fact, 70% of employees state that a job description that offered flexible working as an option would be more attractive to them.

Is Flexible Working Right For Your Business?

The benefits of flexible working are well-documented, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for every business. It may depend on the industry you work in and the type of work you do. For example, if your employees need to be physically present during office hours to answer the phones or attend meetings, then it most likely wouldn't be feasible for them to work from home or work different hours.

Flexible working also won’t suit every employee. Many people would struggle to keep up their productivity when working from home, especially if they don’t have a designated office space in their house. The comforts and distractions in the home can be detrimental to some people’s working habits.

If you think that flexible working could benefit your team, then make sure your employees know that it is an option. If an employee requests flexible working and, after assessing the situation, you don’t think it is a suitable solution, then explain your point of view to them and try to come up with an option that keeps both parties satisfied. You don’t want to end up losing a valued employee over a dispute.

Your Responsibilities When Employees Asks For Flexible Working

Any employee who has worked for a company for at least 26 weeks has the right to request flexible working. To do so, the employee must submit a formal request in writing to their employer. As the employer, you may still offer flexible working to employees with less than 26 weeks tenure.

After the request has been received, employers should make a decision within 3 months. It is good practice to arrange a meeting with the employee to discuss the situation, giving both parties the chance to state their case. The employer must consider all flexible working requests in a ‘reasonable manner’, but does have the right to refuse it if there is good reason to.

For guidelines on considering applications, ACAS put together a code of practice for handling flexible working requests in a reasonable manner. Generally, employers may reject flexible working requests for any of the following business reasons, as set out by ACAS:

  • The burden of additional costs 
  • An inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff 
  • An inability to recruit additional staff 
  • A detrimental impact on quality
  • A detrimental impact on performance 
  • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand 
  • Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work 
  • Planned structural changes to the business. 

If the request is accepted, then the employer must update the employee’s contract to reflect the agreed upon terms. These changes must be made within 28 days of approving the request.

As a senior executive, adopting flexible working could also require implementing operational changes. For example, processes and platforms must be in place for communicating effectively between in-office and at-home workers. You may also need to adapt the way you measure performance, as employees working from home or at different hours to senior staff cannot be monitored as easily. 

What do you think about flexible working and do you implement it in your company? Learn more about flexible working and the rights you and your employees have over at Gov.uk.