What would it mean to make flexible working the default?

flexible working remote working Dec 15, 2021
What would it mean to make flexible working the default

The 2020 Pandemic caused huge changes to business structure and how employees work. Prior to this, flexible working has always been in place as a support for those who need it. When coming out of the pandemic, many businesses had evaluated how employees had both increased and decreased performance at home and could use this information to inform decisions about flexible working as the world returned to ‘normal’. Positively employers noticed that the responsibilities and freedom given to their employees increased their performance. However, there were often difficulties that needed to be worked through to understand the differences between working time and family time at home. There was also a mutual efficiency in the communication of needed information sparking numerous conversations about rethinking the way that things are done. A recent consultation by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy looked into making flexible working the default. Here’s what you need to know about flexible working within the UK and your business. 


What is flexible working?

Flexible working is about the relationship between a business and its employees. A flexible working arrangement allows employees to discuss where they work, at what time they work and their pattern or style of working. This could include part-time working, flexitime, annual hours over weekly, mobile working, job sharing, the ability to switch shifts, working from home, term-time working and many more. 


Who needs or uses flexible working?

Part-time working is the most popular flexible working arrangement and this reduction in weekly hours can be for many reasons. Child-care is a large reason why many employees choose various flexible working hours. It allows fewer hours a week away from the home or even the ability to work at home making a more beneficial home and work-life management for an individual. This is a common example of why flexible working is needed and career breaks are also considered flexible working too. 


What has self-employment got to do with flexible working?

Businesses commissioning self-employed people to play valuable roles within their company see the same results as those who encourage flexible working. The ‘Gig Economy’ is an enterprise example that shows how an operation that is flexible allows companies to better adapt and be consistent with their consumer demand. 


As a business owner, what are the largest benefits of flexible working?

 1. Time and Cost

By introducing flexible working efficiency of working increases reducing hours or progressing businesses further, quicker. There are also significant savings that could be made on businesses fixed costs like requiring less space for employees that want to work from home. Job retention also can increase because of job satisfaction presenting less time and finances required to recruit and train employees. 


2. Job Satisfaction 

With the ability to work in their best way, employees enjoy their roles more. Their morale increases and this also affects their productivity. Flexible working is also deemed attractive by prospective employees increasing the number of applicants for a job role as well. 


 3. Customer Service 

Flexible working offers employees the ability to work whenever they want or can. This can include times that wouldn’t be accessible in a traditional working environment. A business can use this flexibility to its advantage and provide its customers with twenty-four-hour services.


As a business owner, what are the problems with flexible working?

Although flexible working has many positives especially to the employees, it can be complex to manage by a business owner or management team. Some business owners find it difficult to monitor employees with flexible working away from the business premises. If remote working is part of a flexible working arrangement, investment has to be put in place for technology that is required to support the employee. In times of the pandemic, due to the isolation many employees motivation was decreased. This is something a business owner needs to consider and ways on how to reduce it occurring to maintain an effective team. 


What legislations are in place to support flexible working?

For carers and parents, in April of 2003, the UK Government introduced the Right to Request flexible working. This included being able to make changes to the number of hours being worked, the location that this work is done and the working pattern for that individual. In 2014, this Right was then extended to any employee working for a business over 26 weeks consecutively. This gives dedicated employees the ability to access contractual flexible working. The Government state that this will help them or give them more options to reconcile their work and personal lives whilst businesses can still gain benefits from this style of working. 


How does flexible working become part of an employees work life?

It is up to the business owner and management how flexible working requests are dealt with. Some prefer the style where an employee can approach the appropriate person within their team and propose the style of working they would like to pursue for both the business and their own personal gain. Other businesses prefer to have a policy and procedure in place for employees to put in a formal request for consideration. An employer must have a reasonable and valid reason for turning down any request for flexible working.


Flexible working helps to support individuals and families. Due to the intrinsic link between satisfaction in work and personal life, flexible working is appealing to many employees. The pandemic forced many to use means of flexible working to help businesses continue. This opened conversations about how flexible working is going to become a way of the future. 

Pre the industrial revolution, work was dictated by weather and seasonal changes as to how people worked and what they worked on. Into industrialisation, employees were integral parts of the working of machines and of equal importance as the machines in the conveyor system. This was also seen in working environments away from the factory floors but reflected the same clocking in and out at the same time procedures. Now, with the changes in technology advantages can be taken and employees can decide when and where they work best to provide a business with their best possible outcomes every day that they work. By making flexible work a default option for all, these open conversations can help businesses succeed at a higher efficiency and better productivity rates whilst looking after their employee's wellbeing. 

The Government closed the consultation on the 1st of December. They are analysing the feedback and this could result in making changes to the current flexible working regulations. 

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