Much has been written about flexible working in all of its forms, and mostly this has been from an employee’s perspective.
Our experience has been that most of the organisations that we work with, including private businesses, professional practices, and charities, came out of the first lockdown with a better understanding of what flexible working can achieve and, in the subsequent couple of years, have developed practices that have helped them to recruit and retain top talent.
So, with this wealth of experience, we’ve outlined below the factors we think will be useful for you to consider in relation to implementing flexible working.
Working from home was necessary when mandated by the government. Still, with a reduced reliance on paper, more web-based activities, and better workflow and monitoring systems, many employers now have confidence that the work is being done remotely as effectively as it would have been from an office.
There are still challenges. The most difficult thing we have encountered is how to ensure that knowledge transfer happens. If a junior architect, accountant, or sales executive learns by being around their seniors, how can this be replicated?
There is no single answer, but, for example, a professional services firm that we support has tasked its senior staff to spend a designated proportion of their week training junior colleagues and including them in face-to-face or online meetings. Bonuses and promotions have been linked to the effectiveness of this training, and therefore the matter is taken seriously.
Similarly, how do you deal with the perceived unfairness that some roles can be managed remotely while others require to be in a workspace (such as receptionists or roles requiring specific non-portable physical equipment)?
This has to be dealt with sensitively, but it may be that there isn’t a solution. Contributions to travel costs or adjusting hours may help to address the sense of fairness between those who have to travel and those who don’t.
Avoiding the time and cost of commuting has been a massive advantage to many, allowing time for family life, exercise, and other recreation. Many have enjoyed having more time in their day. Having a walk at lunchtime is a new experience for many and can add to the energy available in the afternoon.
Flexibility in working hours requires processes to be established for communication between colleagues and clients – it can be irritating if you don’t know when someone will be available to move work forward.
Having patterns of work can provide a competitive advantage to the organisation. Gaining a greater spread of hours that a service can be provided over or when contact can be made is also attractive. For the employee, the possibility of working uninterrupted if your working day includes an early start or a late finish can also be a huge plus.
Attracting people to your organisation who are primary caregivers or who want to pursue a portfolio career gives you access to a greater talent pool. Allowing employees to work around other commitments can mean you can pay for fewer hours of a high-quality employee and gain a real productivity benefit.
Can the work be carried out on any day? Does it need to be Monday to Friday? Many roles produce an output that can be delivered at any time. So why not make the working week elastic enough to enable people to work at the weekend if it suits them better? Those needing time away from work between Monday and Friday could find this flexibility attractive.
This particularly suits businesses that remain open over the weekend, allowing you to be more effective at balancing and distributing staffing levels. It can also help address the perennial problem of annual leave being taken during school holidays.
Saving employees costs, be it in train fares or childcare, can mean you can share in the benefit. You may not need to match the salary of someone working 9-5 at an office if you provide flexibility in hours and location. You might also save on equipment and office costs by having shareable “hot desks” rather than each person having their own workstation.
There are costs associated with setting up the technology and processes to allow this flexibility but, once in place, these should be relatively fixed and provide savings over time.
Recruitment and Retention
Attracting and retaining the best people is hard at present. We have read about, and our clients have first-hand experience of, people not coming back after the lockdowns or deciding they no longer want to battle the underground or motorway.
Others have taken up a ‘side hustle’ or second role that, with imagination, you can accommodate. Thinking of what you can do to achieve value from your employee whilst allowing them to achieve personal objectives can be the difference between keeping or losing them.
Receive Expert Guidance and Support During your Flexible Working Implementation
As detailed above, there are significant advantages for companies that offer flexible working arrangements to their employees. Not only does it allow businesses to tap into a wider pool of talent, but it can also improve productivity and morale while reducing overheads.
Changing how you operate can seem daunting if you are yet to explore the concept of flexible working within your organisation. However, there is support available to help you make the transition. BedrockHR provides retained and project-based HR support to 50-plus organisations across many industries and sectors, and we boast a wealth of experience in implementing flexible working arrangements.
If you would like expert guidance and support through implementing flexible working arrangements within your company, please contact our team today. We are available on 0203 330 0827 or via email at [email protected].