11th February, 2020
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.
20th December, 2019
The introduction of flexible working regulations back in 2014 meant that millions of people across the country could request flexible working with their employers as long as they’ve been in service for 26 weeks or more. While employers are not obligated to accept the proposal from an employee, they are obligated to at least consider it. This led to many unique work-at-home opportunities for employees that were frustrated by long commute times and poor, often crowded, work environments.
Even today, most people don’t realise that it’s possible to submit an application for flexible working arrangements, but it’s a common way to start working from home and stay with your current employer. This offers more job security than becoming a freelancer and is an excellent way to ensure that your income stays predictable. This level of security is uncommon when it comes to working from home compared to starting up on your own, and is an excellent way to get more freedom and flexibility while working from home.
So in this post, we’re going to take a look at some of the flexible working regulations and how you can get started working from home.
Applying for Flexible Working Arrangements With Your Employer
If you’ve been with your workplace for over 26 weeks, you have the legal right to propose the idea to your employer. While they aren’t obliged to accept it under any circumstances, they do have to consider it seriously and show that they’ve looked at the possibilities. You can create a more convincing case if you have a reason for doing so, such as stressing to them the advantages of flexible working in terms of the benefits to the business.
While 26 weeks seems like a rather short period of time, it has a higher chance of being successful if you can show that you’re reliable and trustworthy. For instance, if you’re consistently late for work or are behind schedule, then your employer may not trust that you can manage your workload at home or remotely away from the office. However, if you’ve been a model employee and have legitimate reasons for requesting a flexible working arrangement, such as a long commute or family commitments, then it can be possible to arrange something with your employer.
When applying for a flexible working arrangement, it’s important to understand what flexible working regulations can do for you. For example, you’ll likely be given equipment to work from at home but you may not be allowed to use these for personal use or else you may liable for any damages and repair costs. In addition, you’ll be subjected to a health and safety assessment to ensure that your remote workplace meets your employer’s standards. This can include having access to an appropriate table height adjustable chair and keeping an eye on the amount of time you spend in front of a computer screen.
If your employer does not have an established flexible working policy, you could use some of the resources on this website for guidance, such as this example flexible working application form. LINK TO www.flexible-working.org/are-you-an-employee/a-practical-toolkit/example-application-form/
Once you’ve spoken to your employer and agreed on a flexible working arrangement that fits your needs, you can then move on to conditions such as how many hours you’ll work from home, what your employer will provide for you and any insurance implications as a result of working from home.
What Will My Employer Provide?
Employers may provide you with different things based on your flexible working agreement. For instance, some employers may offer you wireless-enabled devices such as laptops and smartphones to work from, while others may expect you to use VPN software on your own laptop instead.
In some cases, an employer may help pay a portion of your bills if you are working from home for the majority of your hours. This will often be a small percentage based on how long you work at home and how much rent or utility you pay during the period that you are working. Exact calculations will be worked out when you plan your flexible working agreement. But you should consider seeking advice if your employer is paying a contribution towards a home office in your own home, as this may, for example, impact on capital gains tax.
The Challenges of Working From Home
Working from home comes with a unique set of challenges that differs from a typical office environment. Here are the biggest issues you’ll face and how to deal with them effectively:
- Finding a suitable workplace - You might find that it’s difficult to pick a quiet and comfortable location to work from. Many people assume that working from home means using a laptop on the dining table or working in your pyjamas in bed, but the reality is that you need to set up a location (such as a garden office or a study) and consider it your workplace. If you’re a mobile employee that meets with clients or has to visit different locations throughout the day, then this may not apply to you.
- Having enough motivation - Motivation is also another huge concern when it comes to working from home as you won’t have colleagues to speak to or a manager to consult when there are issues. You can do this over internet communication platforms, but it’s not always the same as speaking to someone and having them explain something in person.
- Dealing with distractions - A lot of people underestimate just how frustrating distractions can be when it comes to working from home. For example, if you’re considering working from home because you have family commitments, then it’s important to understand that you might get distracted by those commitments and fail to get your work done as planned. This is why it’s important to find a suitable workplace so that you can focus on your tasks.
- Coping with the isolation - The social aspect of working from home can be more challenging for some people, especially if you don’t have much contact with your colleagues. This is something that can take a bit of time to get used to, but many at-home workers find it difficult to shake off the feeling of isolation for good. One good tip – plan visits to your employer and make the most of your time there with the wider team.
As you can see, there are many concerns and challenges when it comes to working from home and everyone has their own way to deal with it. In most cases, it will take some trial and error to iron out the problems so that you can fit comfortably into your role as an at-home worker. But when these are ironed out, you will almost certainly become more productive and enjoy better job satisfaction, benefitting both you and your employer.