The traditional 9-to-5 spent in the confines of the office is becoming less and less common. As the needs of both employees and customers change, employers are now having to become increasingly flexible to accommodate these through the provision of flexible work.
Flexible working is not a one-size fits all term and could mean a variety of things depending on the needs of the business. It may involve allowing employees to work part-time, to work some or all of their hours from home, job share with a colleague, or complete their allocated weekly hours outside the traditional 9-to-5.
As the needs of employees garner more interest, laws are changing when it comes to bosses offering flexible working arrangements.
In the UK, for example, employees who have worked for a company for a continuous period of 26 weeks are now allowed by law to request flexible working arrangements. This is open to all employees, not just those with parental or caring responsibilities. Although employers are not required to grant the request, they must be able to provide reasons why the amended hours or working conditions will not fit with the business needs of the company.
In the US there are currently no such rules, although in certain sectors, particularly those which are tech-based, flexible working is gathering momentum.
The business benefits
Integrating flexible working hours or flextime into your business may seem daunting at first, but handled correctly, it can actually reap rewards for all concerned. In fact it can revolutionise the way you do business.
With the advent of internet shopping, instant chat, and next day delivery, your customers now demand rapid service at all times of the day and night. If you have employees wanting to start their working day earlier, taking advantage of this could allow you to offer a better service to your customers by increasing your operating hours.
Offering flexible working patterns does not mean you are giving your employees free reign to do whatever they want. You can embrace flextime while still setting some boundaries. You may decide your employees do not necessarily need to work 9-to-5, but you would like all employees to be at their desks before 11am, and to leave the office no earlier than 3pm. With increasing childcare costs and an aging population, workers have never been under as much pressure to fit caring duties for children and elderly relatives around their work. Offering your employees this opportunity could make all the difference to them.
Flexible working creates a better work-life balance, reduces stress, and helps make their hours at work more enjoyable. A happy workforce is more productive and more likely to remain loyal to your company.
There are also considerable benefits to you as an employer. A flexible working pattern means your employees can work the hours during which they feel more engaged and in the frame of mind to do their best work. Those who are alert and ready for the day early in the morning can arrive at their desks earlier, while those who don’t kick into action until mid-morning can start later meaning you are getting your employees during their most productive hours.
Furthermore flexible working can also be a major selling point when recruiting for a vacant position which can help you to attract the best talent out there.
Remote working can help culture and collaboration
Flexible working is not just about the hours being worked, it can also be the location. If your company has multiple regional bases, you may wish to consider allowing employees to work across one or more offices. For example, perhaps one day a week you could allow an employee to work at an office closer to their home if possible. Not only does this benefit the employee in terms of reduced commuting time and cost, it can also help reap rewards for the business as a whole. Employees from different regional offices mingling and working alongside each other can do wonders for fostering relationships across the company helping them view the business as one entity rather than a collection of individual offices. This is not only great for morale, but it can go a long way towards expanding knowledge and developing ideas for the future.
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If working at another office is not a possibility, you could consider allowing remote working from home or another alternative location. Remote work can help reduce overhead for your company, and with the advancements in mobile phones, tablets, and widespread wi-fi access, there are more places than ever where your employees can put in the hours.
As with everything, there are potential downsides to this which need to be considered. Although employees can work from almost anywhere and at any time, it is important to ensure they do not feel under pressure to always be available and on call. While work used to finish when you walked out the door, this is no longer the case when we are constantly altered to work emails on our phones and other mobile devices. It has never been easier to stay connected with the office, but this is not always a good thing. Make sure your employees know they can switch off when they have worked their contractual hours.
While the integration of flexible working creates new and exciting opportunities for both employees and employers alike, it is important to ensure it is used as a way of solving issues in the workplace and does not simply move them outside the 9-to-5.