This article has been submitted by Sitka Recruitment
Whether it’s working from home, flexi-hours, part-time work or job sharing, the number of organisations offering flexible working practices is on the rise.
It’s no longer just parents, carers, or those with disabilities seeking out flexible working opportunities either; younger workers, those living in rural areas and people just in search of a better work-life balance are also increasingly expecting it. In a survey by Flexjobs, an overwhelming 97% of respondents said they wanted more flexible working options. And thanks to technology, it’s become much more feasible for organisations to provide them.
But could flexible working damage your business and actually harm the employees it’s intended to support?
Flexible working is frequently attributed to better health, well-being and increased motivation and engagement. It’s no surprise when 72% of respondents in the Flexjobs survey cited work-life balance as their driver.
However, there is some evidence to show that employees working remotely, who don’t receive enough support, communication or interaction with colleagues, can start to feel isolated and less engaged with their employers.
There’s a misconception that flexible working will encourage people to slack off, but provided you do all you can to recruit diligent employees, you should see your productivity levels increase.
The Flexjobs survey found that 66% of people believe they’d be more productive in a home office; only 2% thought they’d be more productive working in an office. Why? Because with no commute to factor in, workers can begin their working days earlier, finish later, and experience less interruptions and distractions in between.
However, while flexible working can encourage many staff to work harder and longer, one study has suggested the initial gratitude for being able to work flexibly can wane over time, meaning they produce similar results to those working in-house.
Businesses are missing a trick, because while around half offer flexible working, very few advertise the fact in their job descriptions. Promoting your willingness and ability to support a range of working styles can vastly improve your appeal to top talent.
To retain this talent, it’s vital to make sure flexible workers aren’t treated as second-rate employees. Creeping feelings of isolation or resentment could diminish employee loyalty.
Enabling more flexible working can improve workplace equality and diversity. By removing the barriers that childcare, caring responsibilities and disability needs present, you can encourage more people from underrepresented groups to take up roles – increasing your talent pool at the same time.
The CMI goes so far as to say that flexible working could be the solution to bridging the diversity gap, encouraging men and women to share childcare and improving work opportunities for everyone.
Generally, employees value work-life balance over and above money, so offering flexible working can shift the focus from salary. It can also save on office overheads.
On the flip side, remote workers will face added expenses working from home and this should be something you take into account.
On balance, flexible working helps businesses far more than it harms them and it’s something businesses should embrace. After all, with longer careers and increased caring responsibilities, employees’ desire for it is only likely to intensify.
Here are our top tips to make flexible working work:
- Be open minded: most roles can incorporate an element of flexible working that suits both the employer and the employee
- Make flexibility the norm: create a culture where it’s encouraged for everyone who wants it, not a special privilege
- Manage expectations: having a flexible working policy will ensure both you and your employees understand what is expected
- Support: make sure flexible workers are valued just as much as full-time, in-house staff by involving them and encouraging their feedback
- Communicate: regular team meetings, Skype and video conferences can help keep flexible workers engaged and maintain team cohesion