The Benefits of Flexible Working

Firstly, what is Flexible Working?

Flexible Working can be an alteration to your start and finish times, to work around your outside commitments. For example, you might start earlier and finish earlier so that you collect your children from school. Or you might work from home one day a week so that you can care for an elderly relative. You might even try and flex your hours around peak and off peak train prices or heavy traffic.

 

Some employers can even allow you to work extra hours for four days a week and have the fifth day off completely (although for administrative staff this is pretty rare), and some offer the flexibility of job-sharing with another person.

Here we look at the benefits for employees and employers of flexible working.

  1. Increase in productivity

Studies have shown that when someone works from home, they typically put the hours in when they feel most productive. This could be first thing in the morning, or it could be late at night after the kids have been put to bed. Putting people in charge of their own hours gives them the autonomy to get the work done, rather than having to sit in an office for face time’s sake.

They often have fewer, or shorter, breaks, and spend less time chatting with colleagues (because conversations with the cat are generally limited). There are often fewer distractions as well.

People feel trusted to get their work done during hours that suit them best, rather than being forced into the 9-5 (or longer) trap. If they are coming in early so that they can leave early, they often feel like they have to prove a point that they aren’t doing any less work. This isn’t necessarily the right way to look at it, but psychology shows that there is an element of feeling like one has to “keep up” with colleagues who are still working when you are walking out of the office.

  1. Higher employee retention

Further studies have shown that companies who offer flexible working tend to have a higher staff retention rate. The reasoning around this is linked to staff happiness and the feeling of trust that I have just mentioned. If an employee feels like their company trusts them to complete their work unsupervised, they have more positive feelings towards them.

Furthermore, if you have worked with your employer to facilitate your hours around outside commitments, it can often be difficult or tiresome to replicate that elsewhere. There is the fear that a different role could demand more of your time in the office, rather than working remotely. For this reason, employee retention rates tend to be lower when flexibility is offered.

  1. Better work life balance

Companies strive to provide a good work/life balance for their staff. With some people traveling upwards of 90 minutes each way per day, regular delays on our railway networks, and traffic jams up to our eyes, flexible working can be an excellent way to give staff back some balance.

Perhaps you have asked to start work earlier and finish earlier so that you can miss the rush hour traffic around your town. Maybe you want to start work later so that you can take your child into school. Or you might have a partner who works shifts and by being flexible with your hours, you get to spend more time with them. All of this adds up to a better work/life balance, and more positive feelings towards your employer.

  1. Cheaper for the company

Some companies operate on the basis that they don’t have space for all of their staff to be in the office at the same time. With staff working from home for 1-2 days per week, they need fewer desks and less meeting space. This means that companies can operate with smaller offices, which means fewer facilities staff required and less electricity to keep the office warm.

The company could also factor in the increase in productivity, and the increase in staff retention (and thus fewer bills from recruitment companies), but this could be very difficult to quantify.

  1. Increase to the economy

If someone is looking for part-time work – often new parents – sometimes they don’t have the option of working full time. It could be a case of having to find a part time job, or not taking one at all. Especially with rising childcare costs, it can sometimes be more expensive to go back to work full time. Therefore, having someone in a part-time role, rather than not working at all, can be a benefit to the economy.

Moreover, with the increase in productivity mentioned earlier, this is a benefit to the economy too, with companies ultimately making more profits.

  1. Fewer sick days

A study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour in 2011 showed that where people were offered flexible working, they were found to be getting around an hour’s extra sleep per night. Having extra sleep can contribute to employees feeling healthier and less stressed, which ultimately can result in fewer sick days.

As well as this, people were not forced to use up their annual leave for menial things such as waiting in for deliveries, or having the boiler fixed. Employees were able to fit their personal needs around their work, with neither having to compromise.

There, of course, can be negative reasons for allowing employees to offer flexible working. Although it is worth remembering that the UK government states that all employees are entitled to request flexible working, not just parents and carers. Companies must deal with all requests for flexible working in a “reasonable manner”, however they still have the right to turn down a request.

An example of why a company might view a request for flexible working as negative could be that the person requesting it works on reception during office opening hours, and therefore their job requires them to be on reception to physically greet guests.

Overall, with the government legislation as it is, and with flexible working becoming more “normal” than ever, companies are having to be more flexible with their workforces in order to retain the top talent and keep their employees happy and satisfied in their roles. With thanks to and written by Yvette Pearson – www.yvettepearson.com