Working towards a flexible future
Can your company afford not to have flexible working in place? James Manning explains the benefits.
Offering staff flexible working arrangements has previously been an overlooked business consideration. However, having a productive workforce in place has become increasingly important as companies strive to be more competitive.
The traditional working week of nine to five from Monday to Friday is gradually becoming a thing of the past and having strict working hours in place is proving inadequate to meet the demands of modern day practices. Yet despite this, many companies are still failing to recognise how incorporating flexible working patterns, such as flexi-time and home working, into their strategies can have a profound impact on their business efficiency and overall success.
But why is this? Part of the problem is that the myth that senior jobs can only be done full-time in an office still persists in many organisations. A workforce that works flexible hours rather than set times brings with it managerial challenges and many feel that it is simply easier to monitor and motivate staff with a physical presence in the office.
In the case of home workers, an underlying stigma that staff will simply have lie-ins, watch daytime television all day and do nothing still remains strong when in fact the reality is quite the opposite. While adopting home working practices means it is difficult to oversee employees at all times, fewer distractions and less commuting time to the office can result in staff getting more work done. According to research the average home worker spends almost seven hours a day working, with 15% spending more than 10 hours a day in fruitful employment.
Homeworking is on the increase
Of the employed population, 35.9% did some work at home in 2020, an increase of 9.4 percentage points compared with 2019; this also includes a change in the type of people who worked from home in 2020. Of course, Coronavirus had a significant impact on this – but you can see that the number was already growing even before the outbreak.
And this figure will rise considerably in the near future if businesses reassess their current working methods and begin to recognise that the diverse benefits of adopting smarter working practices far outweigh the risks involved. They need to accept that it is outputs that matter; how and where they are achieved should not be an issue.
Benefits of homeworking
For companies looking for a competitive edge, adopting a flexible approach can prove to be an extremely welcome addition and worthwhile investment. Permitting employees to work office hours that suit them, or at home if need be, opens up the possibility for organisations to employ high calibre staff from a wider pool of applicants.
It is also a good way to improve staff morale and improve the retention of employees, especially those with childcare responsibilities and mothers on maternity leave who are often driven out of work from companies where rigid working hours are in place.
- Opportunity of extended operating hours
- Less downtime for machinery when extended operating hours are used
- Savings e.g. on overheads
- Attract and retain a skilled and more diverse workforce
- More job satisfaction and better staff morale
- Consequently, less employee turnover and recruitment costs
- Reduced levels of sickness absence.
- Better work-life balance for employees
- Improved employee relations, motivation and commitment
- Consequently, increased customer satisfaction and loyalty
- Improved competitiveness, such as being able to react to changing market conditions more effectively
(Adapted from nibusinessinfo.co.uk)
The main benefit of working flexibly for your employees is that it gives them the chance to fit other commitments and activities around work and make better use of their free time. Flexible working can help you as an employer promote a healthy work-life balance for your staff.
Good flexible working arrangements need planning but need not be difficult. Phasing in a flexible working pattern on a small scale can allow companies to experience the benefits first hand. Often splitting time between home and the workplace is the most productive solution as it keeps staff involved and doesn’t isolate them from employee relations. One way to phase the system in is to invite staff to experiment compressing their hours to see if such a system works for them.
The way people work is rapidly changing and for many employees it is now completely different to how they worked only a few years ago. Employers need to be increasingly open and creative in their employment practices. Whether this is accommodating employees’ working hours or allowing them to work from home, the opportunities in allowing staff to have the smallest of freedoms is proving worthwhile. You never know, your staff may be more productive as a result.
Can you afford not be flexible?
James Manning is business development manager at AUTO:TIME Solutions www.autotime.co.uk