Does your business offer flexible working, if so, what does this look like for you?

Change is here

People are changing, we’re waking up to the fact that we don’t have to conform to working the way we’ve always done.  Part of this might be the stresses of modern life or perhaps we’ve just had enough of the daily grind, not having enough time or energy to do other things, trying to squash everything non-work-related into a weekend (when everyone else is doing the same, so everywhere is really busy), and still have time for some sort of social life.  Maybe we’re growing tired of the uncertainty of the job market.  Maybe it’s related to equal pay or equal benefits.  Perhaps it’s all of these things.

Either way, there’s a significant increase in those looking to self-employment as the only way to get our lives balanced.  From 12% in 2001 self-employment has increased year on year to 15.7% (national averages) at the end of 2017 – and for London it’s up to 17.4%.*

Don’t follow the trend, set it!

People are speaking with their feet and it’s only set to increase.  Much of this is because we’re not able to find an organisation that offers genuine flexible working for all.  Is this growing trend something your business can ignore?

Luckily small businesses and start-ups have the opportunity to be real trend setters in this area.  They may not have the resources to offer expensive training plans, or fast-track promotions, they’re unlikely to have the budgets for huge bonuses – but these aren’t the only things that motivate people.  Giving people the trust and respect to allow flexible working is a genuinely attractive proposition for recruiting the right people to your business.

Flexible working has long been seen as a way to allow mothers to get back to work, and only this.  As we fight for equal pay for women, should we not also be fighting for equal benefits for all.  Should only mothers get to benefit from flexible working?

There are a small number of businesses who realise the benefits of allowing staff to work in this way, but not enough.  So, let’s take a look at what is meant by flexible working.  Well, it’s flexible… therefore it can mean any number of things, you can set your own agenda here, but a few common ones are:

  • Flexible hours – a set number of hours a day, worked over the whole day
    • It could be full or part-time, but it might be that some work is done before 9am or after 5.30pm with periods in the day where the employee does something else. Maybe goes to the gym/exercise class, gets the weekly shop done, meets a friend for a coffee, takes a walk in the park.  It may seem radical, but how is it different from letting a mother pick the kids up from school?  It still means they’re unavailable for an hour or so.  It also means that they can be full-time AND flexible.
  • Remote working – not having to be tied to going to the office every day
    • Anyone who’s ever commuted knows the pain involved. Cancellations, traffic jams, delays, over-crowding, over-priced fares.  It’s not the best way to start or end your day.  With over population and lack of affordable housing in our larger cities it means that people are travelling further and in more stressful situations than ever before.  Why would you want to put your staff through that, just so you can see them?  It’s hardly conducive to a productive day is it?  Ask yourself what work requires a physical presence.  By not requiring them to be in the office every day, it can increase productivity, reduce stress (absence) and could also mean that the business can keep overheads down by not having to have such a large office space, if one at all.  Note the rise of the co-working spaces.
  • Compressed hours – the same set number of hours, but worked over fewer days
    • Employees have other interests! Yes, it’s true, it doesn’t all revolve around your business.  Wouldn’t it be great if they could pursue other interests without cutting into the precious weekend or having to leave to do it?  How about if they work their contracted hours but in four days instead?  This could be for a short period or even on a permanent basis.  We’ve all got things we’ll “do one day, when we have the time” – perhaps yours was starting your own business…
  • Reduced hours – if an employee has a requirement to reduce their hours for a defined period
    • We all have times when we could do with a bit of time to ourselves, this might be for a more serious medical or family reason, but it might also just be to do a course or volunteer which is only available during the working week or work on a project which needs a little more time than the weekend allows for a few weeks. It would be such a shame to miss out, if only a sympathetic working environment meant you didn’t have to.
  • Part-time hours – we all know this one
    • Be fair about this and ensure you’re paying the appropriate salary.  I see so many adverts for part-time work offered at greatly reduced rates of pay, which are then pro-rated further.  A £60,000 FTE becomes £40,000 FTE and is then reduced further for part-time hours.  This is deeply insulting and I don’t want to say ‘gender pay gap’ but many of these roles are aimed at women; one business even admitted that they were paying below the London Living Wage because it was aimed at working mums, yet looking for skilled work.   Is this even legal?  No wonder so many people are becoming self-employed!

The benefits

All of these things are sure fire ways to create an open and honest working environment (we’re all adults after all), promote well-being and mental health.  The benefits of which will only be good for your business, some of which are:

  • Reduced overheads on premises
  • Increased staff retention
  • Increased business continuity
  • Improved employee engagement
  • Reduced recruitment costs
  • Increased productivity

Any business leader who’s thinking, but I couldn’t trust my staff to work in this way – you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.  Simple!

Be a pioneer – promote trust, loyalty and true equality!

If you’d like to improve flexible working practices in your business, but aren’t sure how, get in touch for a chat –

* Source: Office for National Statistics, Labour Force Survey

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