Here is our last blog on Flexible working...

The popularity and demand for flexible working hours or ‘flexi-time’ are on the rise in the UK. Bristol is certainly no exception being a cosmopolitan city and the beating heart of arts and media culture with a large workforce to match.

These days, there is more of a requirement for extended working hours for businesses to meet the 24/7 customer need for their services. But there is also more of a demand from employees as their schedules involve extended travel time and the need to juggle work and home/life commitments.

Thanks to the huge advancements in information technology and communications, it is possible for people to work remotely or work outside ‘normal’ office hours. Flexible working has come a long way from its early forms where it was usually just associated with part-time mums who wanted to work around the school run. It has become more of a necessity and a benefit than a perk in recent years, for the many businesses who have embraced it.

What is flexible time?

In essence, it is an agreement that allows workers to alter workday start and finish times to fit their working hours around their individual needs. It can come in many different forms and businesses can set their own guidelines and arrangements according to what works for them and their employees.

Types of Flexible Working Arrangements

Here are some examples:

  • Compressed Hours – This option works by compressing the work hours into fewer days, for example, allowing employees to work four 10-hour work days in a row and then take 3 days off. This can benefit employees who have long commuting times or perhaps want to reduce childcare
  • Flexitime or Adjusted hours – This allows employees to alter their work hours (usually within specified parameters) to better suit their needs. An example would be an employer allowing their staff to start anytime between 6 am and 9 am or finish anytime between 2 pm and 5 pm. As long as the contracted 8 hours are completed, the employee can benefit from this flexible arrangement.
  • Remote Working – With the use of VPNs, conference call facilities and mobile phones, employees can work full time or agreed days of the week from a location of their choice rather than going into the office. This can drastically reduce the costs of travel for the employer and employee. Obviously, this arrangement can only work in a role where the person’s physical presence is not required.
  • Annualised Hours – The employee’s hours are worked out over a year as opposed to over a week or month. Staff are required to work a set number of hours over the year, but may be able to take prolonged time off to cover childcare commitments during the school holidays for example. There will only be some types of businesses that this could work for but it is still fairly common amongst seasonal providers.
  • Staggered Hours – a business may have a number of workers starting and finishing at different times, enabling the business to be operational over a longer period of time in the working day. The benefits of this are numerous but include increased hours that the business is available to customers and increased productivity.

What are the Benefits of Flexible Working Hours for Businesses?

Essentially, offering flexible working to your employees needs to work for you as a business whether you are a service or product based company. There will be core hours where you will need staff to be on hand to perform the key functions required in your sector. But being flexible with staff can bring many benefits to your business, here are some examples:

Staff Retention – numerous surveys show that employees’ value flexible working as one of the most important factors in making their job fit with their lifestyle or other commitments. According to a survey by Pow Wow Wow, a whopping 70% of workers say that being offered flexible working hours make a job more attractive to them.

This will also save you money, not only in terms of recruitment costs but also the cost of ‘time’ in your business where new employees will need to be trained and settled in.

Improved Productivity – If less time is wasted on long commutes through rush hour, or there is an opportunity to work full time as well as say care for your children, there will be improved motivation, engagement and performance from staff.

Employee Loyalty – If employees feel their needs are heard and catered for, they will be less likely to look elsewhere for alternative employment.

Talent Sourcing – In today’s employment landscape, flexible working is utilised by around 43% of employees (according to Lloyds Banking Group data collection in 2017). Therefore, you could be missing the opportunity to recruit top talent if you can’t be flexible.

Financial Benefits – If some or all of your employees work remotely, you will save money on office space and utilities which will drastically reduce overheads.

Reduce Absenteeism – By reducing stress, improving work-life balance and generally making your employees happier you will reduce ‘sick days’ and other absences.

Positive Company Image – high morale, happy workers and good engagement provide a very positive company image which also feeds into the retention and recruitment factor.

How to Make Flexible Time Work for My Business

All businesses are structured differently and have different agendas and business goals. What will work for one will not necessarily work for the next. As with any change within a business, planning and employee ‘buy-in’ are essential.

Flexible working needs to have a very clear, coordinated and widely understood business goal behind it, that is then communicated carefully within the company. For example, just offering flexible working to one employee without communication to the team could cause unhealthy favouritism issues.

Measuring the impact of Flexi arrangements in the workplace

One of the most frequently asked questions from businesses wanting to make this transition is: ‘How will I keep tabs on my employees and measure completion of work?’

One of the key principles to making flexible working, successful is to trust in your employees. Trust that given a little freedom, they will meet their deadlines and flourish in their roles. An employee who regularly fails to deliver will soon come unstuck.

Whilst clocking in and out for a business to assess the time spent at work is a necessity for some companies, it is looked upon as a rather archaic practice which can demoralise employees. However, a system needs to be put in place that allows you to understand what your employees are working on, without coming across too heavy-handed.

One way to do this is to put an emphasis on performance, with monitoring and benefits for those who deliver. Every business needs to know and be sure that everyone is pulling in the same direction, whether the worker is sitting in your office or working remotely.

At Alexander Mae, we are focused on recruiting the highest calibre of candidates for our clients and working with our candidates to ensure each person is placed in the right role. If you are an employer in Bristol or the South West, looking for talent and need a recruitment partner that fully understands your sector, give us a call today on 0117 9055035.

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