The Flex Effect

9 April 2020

Jeremy Couper-Crane

Choosing this precise moment to talk about the importance of flexible working might seem a little like preaching to a congregation four weeks after they’ve been converted. Right now, the vast majority of the working population, where possible, are doing so remotely, away from their usual office environment. In most cases this has meant setting up some semblance of an ‘office’ at home; be it based in a study, sitting at a kitchen table or balancing a laptop on one knee while perched on the edge of the sofa.

Yet the practice of flexible working can offer so much more.

It’s not all about working from home

It’s a fairly common misconception that ‘flexible working’ and ‘working from home’ mean the same thing. In reality businesses that provide flexible working policies are offering a wealth of different options to suit employees’ needs – just a few of these are part-time working, compressed hours (working full time hours but over fewer days), flexible start and finish times, buying and selling holiday or even job sharing. Indeed, all employees have a legal right to request flexible working patterns, not just parents or carers. Most of today’s newer employees (millennials and Gen Zs) now expect flexible working to be offered as standard, not as an additional benefit. They see no reason why it shouldn’t be in place as a working option. And yet only a year ago research conducted by Teleware suggested just 29% of UK employers offer flexible working schemes to all their employees.

The same research also found 42% of employees felt that working flexibly made them more productive, while 25% of respondents stated they’ve previously turned down roles which did not offer any flexibility. Clear evidence that providing a flexible working policy can serve as an excellent tool to attract and retain key talent.

Good for employees – good for business

Advantages exist for both employer and employee where an adaptable working pattern is on offer.

Employees feel a notable sense of self-empowerment as they’re given greater control of their schedule and work environment. They can more easily adapt to the pressures outside of work and so have time to meet those extracurricular demands as and when they arise. Built-in flexibility can reduce employee burnout – people can take a break when they actually need to. And of course, where remote working is involved, there is no commute – for many this can mean an extra two hours of their day is returned to them, meaning they can ‘arrive’ at work fresh and ready to go.

In return employers quickly see the evidence of these benefits. Giving up some control of work schedules can promote increased employee morale, engagement and commitment to the business. Research shows time and again this in turn leads to a reduction in employee turnover and absenteeism. The flow of projects and work will run more smoothly as employees can work when they are able to accomplish most, are feeling freshest and in the mindset to enjoy what they’re doing.

An easy win

With the continued development of technology, businesses now have a far better infrastructure in place to support all kinds of flexible working practices. The key to its success is ensuring that whatever the flexible working options on the table, they are tailored to the people in your workforce so they can choose what is most important to them.

When people feel they have a sense of ownership of their working life they will also have a greater sense of ownership and loyalty to your organisation.

Tell your employees what’s available to them

Do you have flexible working policies in place but think your employees may not be fully engaged with what’s on offer? Perhaps they don’t quite understand how to make the most of what’s available. If so then drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you and discuss ways to promote your flexible working policies so they really work for you and your employees.