An Employer's Guide to Flexible Working What are the Benefits

An Employer’s Guide to Flexible Working:
What are the Benefits?

Over the last few years, it’s safe to say that both employers and employees have changed their approach to working. With a growing demand for home and remote working since 2020, around 76% of workers now want flexible working hours introduced and increased as part of their working benefits.

Doing so could offer businesses a whole range of benefits. By increasing autonomy for employees and improving work-life balance, companies could see improved productivity, enhanced employee loyalty and even a retention rate to boast about.

Understandably, this is a frightening concept to some employers and can be difficult to manage. However, introducing it could make your business a more attractive place to work. Learn how below.

What is flexible working legislation?

The Employment Rights Act 1996 states employees can request flexible working after 26 weeks of continual service. As such, employees must cover certain factors, including the effect on the employer and the type of flexibility. This is reviewed within three months and either accepted or dismissed. If dismissed, employees can’t request it again until after 12 months have passed.

In 2022, the UK Government proposed a series of changes to this rule that are expected to make legislation. These include:

  • Flexible working as a day one right instead of after 26 weeks
  • Requests for flexible working to be reviewed and answered within two months instead of three
  • Employers will have a second opportunity to request flexible working within 12 months
  • Employers will need to instigate a discussion with the employee before the request can be rejected
  • Employees will not need to explain what effect this request will have on their employer

Who is eligible for flexible working?

Legislation currently states that employees with 26 weeks of continuous service are eligible to make flexible working requests. However, once the amendments have been made, this will drop to a day-one right for every employee, not just parents or carers.

It’s also important to note that according to the Government website, the right to flexible working is reserved for everyone, not just parents or carers. For whoever needs it, flexible working might manifest as remote working or flexitime, offering a way of working that suits an employee’s requirements.

People working in an office

Benefits and drawbacks of flexible working for employers

Employers researching flexible working should be aware that results will vary dependent on business models, workplace culture and trust. For companies to see success, they’ll need to trial the process first to understand if it’s right for them.

Benefits of flexible working

Enhance job satisfaction

Flexible working is often a request made for personal reasons by an employee. For example, individuals suffering from anxiety or sensory disorders may prefer to work from home where they can control their environment. Likewise, parents may also need the flexibility to collect their children from school. By enabling flexible working for employees, it makes them feel valued by their employers. In turn, this holds greater benefits for employers such as retention and overall job satisfaction.

Attract talent

Social mobility hinders a lot of people from working in larger cities or well-known corporations, especially when there’s a requirement for office-based work. Companies that do this immediately become unattainable to around 40% of applicants, which can mean employers miss out on valuable skill sets. That’s why offering remote working opportunities, even if individuals aren’t far from the area, can significantly improve the types of applications received.

Increase productivity

With a reduction in commuting time and the trust to complete tasks on a different schedule, employers could see productivity skyrocket by up to 43%. Essentially, employees who are trusted to complete their work alongside personal schedules are more likely to manage their time wisely and increase productivity for businesses. This also assumes that employers have given employees the autonomy to make these choices and work when they’re less preoccupied and more focused.

Reduce stress

Around 97% of people feel that flexibility would have a significant impact on their quality of life. From removing stress-induced commutes to allowing employees to plan their day around important personal appointments or family care needs, giving employees the right to flexible working offers employers huge benefits. By reducing stress and providing a positive environment, it could also reduce unnecessary absenteeism, as well as presenteeism.

Promote better work-life balance

Employees given the autonomy to manage their work commitments alongside personal ones offer them a sense of relief. Having a defined work-life balance means individuals can fully dedicate their time to their jobs without feeling distracted or preoccupied by personal events. For employers, it means more quality, impactful work from employees as well as a happier and healthier workforce.

Give your employees autonomy

If a strong relationship has been established between an employee and an employer, it means that trust is present. Employers must trust their workforce to complete their tasks away from the office for flexible working to be successful.

In some cases, adopting a more informal approach to working hours has empowered employees to go above and beyond simply because they feel trusted to do so. According to one study, having a set-up like this enables employees to show their loyalty to employers. Individuals who feel this way are more likely to exceed expectations and produce exceptional pieces of work.

Disadvantages of flexible working

Lack of trust

Employers need to trust employees to do their jobs and employees must trust employers to let them do their jobs. It sounds incredibly simple but, without this formula in place, flexible working is set to fail. Employers can fall into micromanagement habits easily, so it’s worth monitoring the situation first and addressing any queries in dedicated meeting times.

Poor communication

Announcements made in person can be easily missed by individuals who work remotely, leaving them feeling isolated and out of the loop. In fact, for those introducing flexible working, these habits will need to be reviewed. Employers will also need to ensure enough time is given to remote workers to share their thoughts and feelings too.

Poor-performing employees

Employees who are performing poorly may not be able to access the support they need when working remotely, especially if necessary collaboration tools are not in place. Employers may want to change an employee’s working arrangement during this period to solve the problem, but it could cause friction between the employee and employer.

Compromised working hours

Whilst an informal approach to working has huge benefits, employees may work longer or unconventional hours to get their tasks completed. Of course, this could compromise an employee’s performance, especially if they have provided themselves with few breaks in order to finish their work. Without monitoring, this could cause an increase in stress, resulting in time off sick or an inability to focus during working time.

It’s not for everyone

Indeed, flexible working isn’t for everyone, and it’s important to be mindful of that. Certain employees might have distractions at home, such as children or other dependents, that hinder their ability to work from home. Likewise, there are also some sensitive topics that employers should be aware of before implementing home working, such as employees in the process of eviction or those suffering from abuse.

Lack of social interaction

Employees working remotely will have less social interaction than those in the office, which can cause them to feel isolated and lonely. Remote working could also be problematic for those in client-facing roles where regular meetings and calls are set up.

guy in smart working

Six steps to implement flexible working

1. Communication with staff

Firstly, strong cases for change should be shared with staff. Doing so means employers can assess all the risks, concerns and requirements in one go. It also ensures that employees are kept updated about potential changes, enabling their voices to be heard.

2. Flexible working policy

By introducing a flexible working policy, you’ll have clear rules and expectations for your employees. It establishes exactly how employees should approach the matter when they work from home or remotely. In addition, employees looking to request flexible working, such as staggered hours, have a visible reference of how their employer will approach the request and what should be expected.

3. Updated contracts

Employees who have requested flexible working will need it to be reflected in their contract. If flexible working is coming in as a company-wide policy, and it’s not a temporary solution, all employee contracts will need to be updated to demonstrate this.

4. Ensure support for managers

If flexible working is only available for a handful of employees, managers may need to keep tabs on individuals working in the office and at home. Whilst office-based workers have the benefit of face-to-face conversation, this isn’t a luxury afforded to remote or home workers. Line managers will need to be able to have the right support in place to best assist their team.

5. Monitor employee performance

As part of the trial stage, you’ll want to assess how your employees are doing as well as their overall job performance. It’s important to clearly communicate your expectations of workers, especially for individuals working remotely for the first time. For example, some staff members might try to push the boundaries, so it’s vital you measure performance. Likewise, you’ll need to ensure your employees are always looked after and safe, including any changes in mental health.

Employers should create a set of metrics that can measure their employees’ overall performance in a fair and just way. This information can then be used to assist employees whose performance might be below average and uncover why that may be.

6. Review the process

At regular intervals, employers should continue to review their flexible working policies and processes to see if they benefit employees. After a trialling period, employees may also have some valuable feedback about the process.

Flexible working FAQs

What are the different types of flexible working?

Flexible working doesn’t just consist of remote or home working, there’s far more to it. As a concept, flexible working can consist of the following requirements:

  • Job shares – when a job is shared between two people
  • Hybrid working – employees who work from home and the office throughout the week
  • Remote working – individuals who complete their work from home or some other location other than the office
  • Part-time – individuals who can’t commit to full-time hours due to other commitments
  • Flexitime – where an individual observes core hours for working, such as 12-3pm, but has more control over when their day starts or finishes
  • Compressed hours – a normal working week that’s compressed into four days instead of five
  • Staggered hours – employees with differing start and end times compared to their colleagues

Do employers have to accept employee requests for flexible working?

There’s no obligation for an employer to accept an employee’s request, especially if it will negatively impact business operations or feels completely unreasonable. Instead, employers will need to demonstrate that they’ve taken the time to review requests fairly. In addition, they must also give a business-related reason when a request is rejected. These include:

  • Planned structural changes at a business that affect an employee’s job
  • Work produced is likely to be of low quality
  • Additional costs associated with the request, such as new equipment
  • An inability to meet high customer demands
  • Work can’t be covered by other staff
  • Not enough work available during pre-determined flexible working periods
  • Negative impact on performance that reflects poorly on the company
  • Employer is unable to recruit additional staff to accommodate the change.

When might an employee need flexible working?

Employees can require flexible working for numerous reasons, they’re not just reserved for those with dependents who require care. For example, employees recovering from an illness or major surgery may request flexible working so they can work from the comfort of their own home. Another example could be individuals with sensory disorders who become distracted or overwhelmed in an office environment.

Flexitime or staggered hours are often used for individuals who have children that need to be dropped off for school or daycare, meaning their parents can still get a full day of work in without compromising their child’s care routines.

Do core hours still apply?

Core hours are essential for businesses that adopt flexible working and flexitime as they require employees to be available during pre-determined hours. This ensures that businesses can remain operational at their peak times, maintain customer service standards and offer a period for collaboration.

Does flexible working only apply to full-time employees?

Not necessarily, you can complete full-time and part-time jobs with flexible working. Full-time workers can use flexible working requests to compress their work week or to work remotely. Part-time or job shares are also classed as flexible working.

Need support dealing with flexible working requests?

Managing flexible working requests can be challenging for businesses without compliant software in place. At Staffology, our intuitive HR software enables you to keep track of arrangements whilst monitoring staff attendance. Request a free demo today or contact us.

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