Flexible Working: Is it a viable option for your business?

It may be the latest trend to hit the modern workplace. But flexible working is already being tipped by experts as a prominent force that will transform how businesses and their employees operate in our increasingly digital world.

This predicted evolution of the traditional workplace has already begun, with more organisations offering flexible work as a job perk than ever before. But what has caused this increased demand over the past few years?

Here in the UK, we are still very much in the grips of a skills shortage which has left few industries untouched. Because of this, there are not enough talented professionals out there with the right skills and experience to meet demand. In order to stand out against their competitors, organisations have started using all kinds of tactics to attract the best talent and keep hold of them once they are on board. One of these said tactics is offering flexible working opportunities to new and existing employees.

By offering this perk, organisations who are utilising this way of working are seen as being up to date with modern technology and considerate of their employees wants and needs. This can be a key differentiator that stops prospective candidates and existing employees from going to work elsewhere.

As well as helping to attract and retain employees, flexible working can also help organisations to save money. If the majority of their workforce is able to work remotely at home or even through a hot-desking system, the organisation won’t have to spend as much money on rent, utilities and office equipment.

This is an attractive benefit for organisations to take advantage of because this money can be used to find other aspects of the business; from developing products and services or to fund an expansion or major transformation project. This saved money can also give stability during unpredictable circumstances such as Brexit where the outcome to businesses is still uncertain.

Employees are open to the idea of flexible working

While flexible working holds a host of benefits for employers, employees are also eager to get on board with this new way of working. A recent study has found that nearly three-quarters of UK workers find jobs that offer flexible working more appealing, while over a third would choose flexible working over a pay rise if they had the choice. If that wasn’t enough, 70% of the millennials have cited that flexible working is at the top of their wish list when it comes to looking for a new role.

There are countless reasons as to why employees want to work at home as opposed to the traditional office environment. These can range from reducing commuting times to gaining at better work/life balance to dealing with a chronic health condition.

Whatever the reason, research has found that employers who offer flexible working to their employees experience a reduction in sick days, increased productivity and improved diversity, while also encouraging a boost in employee morale and satisfaction levels.

So, with all of these benefits to gain for employers and employees alike, is it something that you should be thinking about introducing to your organisation?

Flexible working is not right for everyone

It’s vital to remember that while many organisations have been transformed by flexible working in recent years, it’s not suitable for everyone. Something that might have worked for one business, could be extremely detrimental to another. But with so much buzz currently surrounding flexible working, it’s easy to get swept along and to not give this new style of working the thought it requires.

Before you even think about implementation, you need to think about the potential challenges that could arise and whether you are equipped to deal with them.

One issue is that you may not get full employee buy-in. Even though you might be enthusiastic about it, if you haven’t consulted your employees before implementation you’re likely to be met with contempt and a high chance of failure. We all work in different ways and it’s highly likely that some of your employees won’t suit or will find it difficult to work remotely. From poor Wi-fi connections to complicated living situations, there are countless reasons why some people might prefer to work at a designated location for a set amount of time. If people are forced to work in a way that they dislike, you may experience staff losses which could spark a shortage of skills in your organisation.

Another challenge could be a lack of consideration of the daily needs of your business and the tasks your employees need to complete to achieve them. Some roles, often those that only require a laptop, a smartphone and an internet connection, are ideal for remote and flexible working. But others that require the use of specialist equipment or involve regular client visits, for instance, are more restricted by the confines of the business.

If your employees don’t have the means they need to complete their work, this will understandably have a detrimental effect on the quality of your service and it’s delivery, which could result in dissatisfied customers and clients. It will also cause frustration amongst your team, which could force them to look for work elsewhere.

You’ll need to think about whether you can afford to potentially invest in new equipment and software for your remote workers- which could be substantial if your whole team needs to be set up. Not all businesses are financially stable enough to go through such a major transformation in one go so you might have to think about a slower roll-out.

You might also want to look into flexible working alternatives such as childcare vouchers for those employees who are unable to take part in your new flexible working scheme. There might be feelings of jealousy and upset if you don’t try to find a good balance that keeps everyone happy.

Last but not least, you’ll also need to ensure you or a designated team or member of staff is on top of monitoring the flexible work schedule and that everyone has core hours set each week. If a large portion of your team decides to work a late shift, for instance, that could mean that you don’t have enough manpower to cover the morning; which could make communication amongst your team and clients difficult and disrupt your delivery and service.

The bottom-line

As flexible working becomes more widespread, it looks like the traditional 9-5 may not be as popular as it once was. While there’s no denying that there are many benefits that come with the implementation of flexible working, it’s unfortunately not suitable for every organisation.

If you decide not to introduce flexible working into your organisation, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are putting yourself at disadvantage. By taking the time to carefully consider and being realistic about the needs of your employees and your business, you can find alternative solutions that help you to attract and retain the best talent possible.

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19th September

Industry Insight