Flexible working regulations introduced in 2014 gave employees the right to request flexible working arrangements from their employers. This didn’t mean that you were legally obligated to accept their terms, but it did mean that employers had to at least consider the possibility of a flexible working arrangement. While many employers found it bothersome and didn’t like the thought of introducing change, there are actually a number of wonderful benefits when it comes to adopting flexible working policies.
What Do the Flexible Working Regulations Mean?
If an employee has worked in your company for at least 26 weeks, then they have the legal right to request flexible working arrangements from you as the employer. Again, you’re not obligated to accept the arrangements, but you are obliged to at least consider it. Many employers shrugged this off, considering it just a nuisance since it would disrupt their existing workflow or because they weren’t in a good financial position to offer remote working opportunities.
However, taking the opportunity to adopt flexible working policies could have a significant positive impact on your business.
What Is a Flexible Working Arrangement?
A flexible working arrangement can mean different things depending on the type of business you operate. However, one simple way to look at it is the flexible working is just a change in the place and / or time at which work is usually done. A flexible working arrangement means that your employees may:
- Change the time and / or place that they work.
- Become more focused on the outputs they are producing, rather than the ‘time served’
- Have flexible hours that they control, but you can set an upper or lower limit on (for instance, they can work a maximum of 36 hours but must be in the office for at least 4 hours a week)
- Require the right technology such as a laptop, smartphone or tablet device, so that they can access the information they need remotely. This is often facilitated if the business is using a cloud based system which can be accessed over the internet. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can also give access office systems.
- Attend meetings remotely via the internet using a webcam and supporting software
- Be out in the field more often, meeting with clients or selling products in person rather than over the internet on their computer
- Work at home even when they are unable to leave, such as being snowed-in during the cold season or if there’s a transport-related issue
- Be almost completely independent, only relying on senior help when absolutely required
As you can see, a flexible working arrangement gives your employees a lot more freedom than before. This can be a little uncomfortable as an employer because it means trusting them to get their work done on time and without the assistance of their colleagues and managers. Of course, many of these worries can be mitigated by ensuring your employees become more output focussed, and this can lead to significant productivity gains.
Are Employees More Productive With a Flexible Working Arrangement?
In most cases, yes. While it’s impossible to consider every possible outcome once you adopt flexible working policies, we can say that there are many unique benefits of flexible working arrangements for both employers and employees. For instance, letting your staff carry out work at their own pace can help improve their work-life balance and general productivity. In addition, they’ll save a lot of money on commuter and other business travel costs, such as petrol or paying for public transport. This can save both time and money for both you and your employees.
One caveat of a flexible working arrangement is that your employee might feel isolated working on their own. This is a problem that can be overcome with the right countermeasures. For example, establishing some form of communication or collaborative work process means that your employees can stay in the loop no matter where they’re working from. This could be a simple messaging app, it could be a dedicated phone line that you install for them for business use, or it could be collaborative cloud-based software. Take a look at our top tips for managing flexible
Some employees may also benefit from a flexible working arrangement because it enables them to become mobile. For instance, if you have employees that regularly meet with clients, then it’s possible to establish a flexible working arrangement which allows them to go directly to a client’s location instead of visiting your office first. In some cases, they could work entirely out of the office and bounce from client to client, resulting in a far more productive workday.
How Does Flexible Working Benefit Your Business?
Flexible working can directly benefit your business since it makes your employees more productive and content with their jobs. But let’s list some of the most enticing benefits of adopting flexible working policies.
- You’ll cut down on certain costs such as paying for business travel
- Your staff will be more motivated since they have more freedom and control over their work-life balance, which in turn makes them more productive
- Your employees will be able to work regardless of their location or any public transport outages or ‘flu epidemics
- Your staff retention goes up since they’re given more freedom to cope with other commitments such as their family
- You’ll find it easier to attract prospective recruits with your flexible working policies
- You can switch to a smaller office since your employees will be working from home
Considerations Before Adopting Flexible Working Policies
Of course, it’s also important to consider the changes you’ll be making to your business and how to cope with them.
One of the biggest considerations is your hardware and technology. If you don’t already have a superfast broadband connection, then you won’t be able to use Cloud based solutions or VPN technologies very effectively. This means that your staff will be sluggish when performing their duties and they may frequently be disconnected from your network.
You also need to consider how you equip your staff. For example, they may need a laptop or wireless-enabled device to be able to work remotely. You also need to consider certain aspects of their safety, such as if they’re using a comfortable chair that doesn’t hurt their body.
Flexible working policies are a great way to improve your overall productivity and give your staff more freedom to cope with their outside commitments. Although it does come with some setup and responsibilities that you need to take care of before you adopt those policies, there is plenty of guidance to help you on our website.