What is Flexible Working?
There are many preconceptions and probably misconceptions about flexible working.
Let’s start with the myriad of definitions of what flexible working is. Some refer to the working schedule being outside a “normal pattern” or one that “varies from standard practise” which suggests that flexible working is outside the norm, is unconventional or special.
A conventional working arrangement is an agreement between an employer and an employee regarding the hours, location and duties that the employee is going to do to suit the business needs of the employer and the personal needs of the employee. Flexible working is no different. In an increasingly competitive and global world of work the “standard” hours of work are rapidly changing and so are the attitudes about flexible working.
With an increasingly diverse community within the workplace the ways to structure working arrangements is being met by an equally diverse menu of options.
Here are some commonly used terms to describe how jobs can be structured differently:
- Flexi-time: an employee has some ability to choose when to begin and end work, normally within certain set limits. There may be core hours (or band widths) where employees have to be present at work but the remaining hours can be made up within the limits to suit the employee.
- Part-time working: sometimes referred to as reduced hours, where employers are contracted to work anything less than full-time hours. This may be working fewer days a week or can be less hours each day. These tend to be established and the same hours/days completed each week or can be more fluid to suit the needs of the business / employee.
- Compressed hours: where there is not an overall reduction in hours but the employee completes the contracted work in fewer or longer blocks, common arrangements include completing a 9-day fortnight or working 4 longer days each week.
- Time off in lieu (TOIL): when employees work longer than their standard set hours, normally to meet a spike in demand or activity, then can accrue the additional time they have worked and opt to take the equivalent time off on an alternative normal working day. The days available for the TOIL to be taken is typically within pre-agreed limits or criteria.
- Term-time working: working only during the term times. This may come with paid or unpaid leave during the holidays and may suit schools, businesses linked to education or other seasonal businesses.
- Job-sharing: where two people share the responsibility and rewards for one job. There are a number of successful ways to structure job shares to ensure they work for the employees and employers.
- Career breaks: where an employee takes a break from their career, this can be defined in length or can be unspecified. When in agreement with an employer with a job role to return to after the break this can sometimes be referred to as a sabbatical. These can be paid or unpaid and are normally offered as a reward after a number consecutive years service, such as 5 years. They have been shown to be very effective in providing employees a chance to refresh their minds and broaden their perspective so when they return to their jobs they do so with a refreshed attitude and renewed energy.
- Annual hours: where it is agreed between the employer and the employee the total number of hours to be worked over the year but there is variation in when the hours may be worked. The employee may or may not have choice over working patterns.
- Home working: where employees conduct business from their home, this may be all the time or an option for a regular or occasional arrangement.
- Teleworking/telecommuting: where computers, telephones and other technical equipment enable the employee to work from home while maintaining contact with colleagues, customers, or access to a central office system.
- Commissioned outcomes: The employee has an output target to achieve, there are no fixed hours and it is down to the employee to complete sufficient work to achieve the target.
How is it going to work for my company?
Businesses are introducing flexible working arrangements for everyone because of the business benefits. The main improvements are an ability to attract a wider pool of talent, retention of a higher level of skills and more diverse workforce, greater job satisfaction and commitment, lower absenteeism and staff turnover resulting in increased productivity, greater cost-effectiveness and efficiency. Whilst flexible working is clearly advantageous to those people with children or other dependents, flexible working is beneficial for everyone. People will feel happier with a better balance between life and work and may feel more in control of their workload. Avoiding the stressful daily commute or being able to commit to a regular interest group or exercise routine will help to lower stress levels and reduce sickness levels as well as minimise time off for appointments.
To discuss recruiting new staff with flexibility in mind please get in touch:
Phone: 0121 6616495