Flexible working: why you should embrace it

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

With National Work Life Week upon us I thought I would take the opportunity to consider flexible working.  Many organisations claim to have embraced flexible working, but just how flexible is it?

Flexible working has grown rapidly in recent years. Many employers have adopted it and the demand from employees is expected to continue increasing. So how are you dealing with this demand and are you prepared for the future?

Gone are the days of a fixed hours, 9-5, office based role – working patterns have evolved to better suit the needs of employees (and employers).  Indeed, while fixed hours are not completely a relic of the past, workplace flexibility continues to evolve.  So it may still be adopted by those organisations who have yet to embrace it.  

The benefits for both employees and employers

Flexible working gives employees the flexibility to balance their work and personal lives. It allows for picking the children up from school, attending that dental appointment mid-afternoon and even avoiding the dreaded commute. 

For employers, flexible working can help improve staff retention, as well as the levels of employee engagement, motivation and productivity.  In 2016 Dell stated that flexible working saved them, on average, $12 million a year in the US due to lower real estate costs! 

Employees welcome the opportunity to work flexibly. According to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends survey it is a top priority for employees when choosing a job.  LinkedIn has seen a 78% increase in job posts mentioning flexibility in the past two years. PowWowNow’s Flexible Working survey 2019 found that 79% of employees believe it would make them more productive, with 81% believing that flexible working would make the job more attractive (70% in 2018). 

Employees are looking for greater flexibility in their working lives so when they’re looking for new roles, flexible working has a big appeal.

"Work flexibility is becoming the norm. The challenge is how fast organisations can provide it. Those that can are going to be in a far better position to retain top talent over the next three to five years."
Jason Phillips VP Digital HR & Global Chief of Staff, Cisco

Technology has transformed how we work 

Emails, Skype, IM, WhatsApp, phone and video conferencing all offer a variety of ways to connect with each other.  So it means you don’t have to be physically sitting next to your colleague in the office.  Technology can provide the tools to build teams and help employees work together more effectively, while cutting costs for the organisation. 

However, remote working can have its downsides.  For example, being away from others and the lack of interaction this entails makes building a strong, close working team more difficult.  The natural collaboration of a team who regularly work side by side is more difficult to achieve, but by no means impossible. It’s a challenge that can be overcome through smarter planning and communication, using the methods mentioned above. 

Some sectors, because of certain constraints, are not embracing flexibility as much as others; only 60% of both manufacturing and healthcare allow flexible working in special circumstances or not at all.  It will be interesting to see how these sectors deal with the demand for greater flexibility.

Are you clear about your flexible working policies?

When thinking about embracing flexible working ensure you are clear about your policies.  They also need to be stored somewhere that is easily accessible by all.  

Be clear and upfront in job descriptions, interviews and employee meetings about what your policies are and be prepared to resolve any misunderstandings.  Ensure that everyone in the organisation is on the same journey.  

Lastly, understand that the demand for flexible working is being driven by social and attitudinal changes, hence the need for employers to be able to adapt.

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