Flexible Working Corner

The Benefits Of Flexible Working

Flexible working benefits and options

The traditional 9 to 5 pattern of working hours may present problems for men and women who have to combine work and family responsibilities. There are benefits therefore in introducing flexible working arrangements which permit individuals to better balance the needs of home and company commitments.

Benefits for the Company may include:

  • Retention of trained and valuable staff
  • Increased productivity
  • Decreased absence
  • Individuals who have jobs tailored to meet their individual needs may be more motivated
  • The company is seen to support its Diversity values
  • Access to a talent pool which might otherwise be unavailable thus improving recruitment
  • Ability to allow employees to continue to develop and grow in their career and to match the natural cycle of family commitments that everyone experiences

Benefits for the Individual may include:

  • Ability to balance work and home commitments more readily
  • Increased quality of life
  • Reduced Stress
  • Greater levels of job satisfaction
  • Ability to continue to work
  • Access to more interesting and better paid work
  • Ability to maintain career development and personal growth during a period of temporary increased family commitments
  • Ability to balance work and ones natural life cycle during which personal commitments outside work may increase or decrease

There are four categories of flexible working:

Working full time but with flexibility about the exact timing of these hours either through flexible working time or through a personalised annualised hours contract

Working reduced hours through for example part-time working (shorter days or less days a week), part year working, term-time working, job sharing

Working either full or reduced hours at home to enable more flexibility over balancing work and home commitments, or allowing people who may have specific difficulties getting to a set place of work to make a valued contribution to an organisation.

Taking a temporary period off work or a career break to allow men or women to care for children of preschool age or older dependent relatives with the guarantee of a suitable job at the end of the period.

Some circumstances that might warrant flexible working:

  • Care of pre-school children
  • Care of school age children
  • Care of elderly and dependant relatives
  • Personal disability (making it hard to travel to a specific location, or work very long hours)
  • Recovery from a prolonged illness
  • Preparation for retirement (working reduced hours in the years leading up to retirement)
  • Taking time to develop new skills or to take up a hobby (perhaps in anticipation of a change in career or to start up your own business)
  • Commitment to charity or volunteer work
  • Desire or need to change the pace of ones lifestyle or adjust your work-life balance

Useful Links

Employment relations service offering practical, independent and impartial advice to employers, employees and their representatives.

Cabinet Office Diversity Website
Cabinet Office Diversity Website with information on all aspects of the diversity agenda.

Carers UK
Practical information for carers and those supporting them, including employers.

Childminding Association
Promotes quality registered childminding for children, families and communities.

Daycare Trust

National childcare charity that promotes high quality affordable childcare for all.

Department of Trade & Industry- Guidance on Part Time Workers Regulations

Employers and Work-life Balance
www. employersforwork-lifebalance.org.uk
EaWLB aims to help all UK organisations implement and continuously improve sustainable work-life strategies which meet customer needs, corporate goals and enhance the quality of life for individuals.

Employers for Childcare
Employers For Childcare is a registered charity and not-for-profit organization, set up to assist working parents by encouraging businesses to invest in employer supported childcare. Our range of innovative services can help all working parents, male and female balance work and family commitments.

Equal Opportunities Commission
Commission focused on equal opportunities. Gender statistics for the UK workplace as well as information on legislation, the Equal Pay Task Force and EOC publications.

Families and Work Institute
A non-profit organisation that publishes the National Study of the Changing Workforce, a five-yearly survey of American workers. It also provides consultancy on the design and implementation of work-life solutions. The Institute also works with employers, states and communities on issues related to male involvement in the lives of children.

Gingerbread is the leading support organisation for lone parent families in England and Wales. Site contains information about support for lone parent families.

Opportunity Now
Opportunity Now is a Membership organisation representing employers who want to transform the workplace by ensuring inclusiveness for women.

Parents at Work
Organisation providing information for working parents and their employers on employment rights, childcare and flexible working. Ir runs the Employer of the Year and Britain's Best Boss annual awards and publishes research.

Telework Association
Europe's largest organisation dedicated to teleworking with a membership of over 2,000 individuals and organisations. Provides practical advice for both individuals and businesses on how to approach teleworking - information on technology and case studies.

The Employers' Forum on Disability
Employers' organisation focused on the issue of disability in the workplace. It works closely with government and other stakeholders, sharing best practice to make it easier to employ disabled people and serve disabled customers.

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers
National charity that aims to make life easier for carers to cope by providing information, support and practical help. Run "Carers Speak Out", a project that publishes qualitative research all types of carers in the UK. Website contains a reading list on caring.

The Work Foundation
The Work Foundation, formerly The Industrial Society, combines leading-edge analysis of the modern workplace with practical experience of what inspiring and successful businesses and public sector organisations look like today.

Workwise UK
A five year, not-for-profit initiative that encourages the widespread adoption of smarter working practices, such as flexible working, remote working and working from home and promoting a work-life balance.

Implementing flexible working

Whether or not your company has a formal policy regarding flexible working, best practice suggests that if individuals take personal responsibility for thinking through how things can be managed from the companies point of view, the introduction of flexible working arrangements will be both more likely to happen and more likely to be successful. This makes sense. After all it is the individual who will be the primary beneficiary and whilst there are compelling reasons for a company to be flexible and some demonstrable benefits, it is something that they are doing for you.

Considerations for individuals who are seeking flexible working:

  • What arrangements would suit you best.
  • What flexibility can you offer to make it easier for your manager/employer to support you
  • What is the likely duration - a year, 2-3 years, longer
  • What are the likely implications of the arrangements for co-workers, customers, family.
  • What can you do to address the likely concerns with regard to co-workers, customers, family.
  • What are the cost implications for you and the company.
  • What arrangements can you put in place to make home working feasible
  • What arrangements can you put in place to cope with unexpected work demands, attendance at training courses etc
  • If working from home is the goal, what will you do to maintain contact with your manage and the company
  • If job sharing, what can you do around handover and knowledge sharing with your job partner.

Considerations for the manager/employer looking to introduce flexible working arrangements for an individual or on a company wide basis:

  • How will the impact of this best be managed in terms of co-workers and customers
  • How can continuity of service be maintained
  • What 'keeping in touch' arrangements can you put in place
  • What can technology do to make things easier
  • How will you continue to support learning and development
  • How can the organisation use its willingness to consider flexible working to improve its attractiveness as an employer, attract and retain high quality individuals, etc
  • How will individual arrangements be set up and what will be the considerations when deciding whether or not to support such an arrangement (whilst the arrangements may be quite different and not everyone may qualify the criteria for eligibility should be the same)
  • What can the individual do to make this more possible
  • If at face value it looks too difficult what could be changed to make it possible

Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance defined
Work-life balance is about people having a measure of control over when, where and how they work. It is achieved when an individual's right to a fulfilled life inside and outside paid work is accepted and respected as the norm, to the mutual benefit of the individual, business and society. [Employers and work-life balance]

Achieving satisfactory work-life balance can be as much a responsibility of the individual worker as it is of the employer. There is no one standard which applies to everyone. Life is changes constantly for all of us and an individual's needs change with it. Work-life balance is dynamic: long hours spent in the office may be acceptable at the start of a career but may no longer satisfy an employee who is approaching the next decade or two as responsibilities alter. [HalsAllan limited]

Business benefits
Recognising employee needs and corporate social responsibility need not mean compromising productivity. Much experience shows that employees work best when they are able to control the pressures they face, whether work related or arising from life circumstances.

Promoting flexible working encourages agile mindsets; while making the best use of new technologies can extend workplace access to a much wider pool of potential employees.

Work-life balance business benefits include:

  • Increased productivity - driven by increased motivation, sense of purpose and control and reduced distraction
  • Improved recruitment and retention - offering benefits to employees around choice, and control increase their commitment and reduce the attractiveness of alternative job options
  • Lower rates of sickness, time off and absenteeism - allowing individuals to better balance their commitments both reduces stress but also time off to manage outside responsibilities
  • An improved customer experience - evidence shows that a more relaxed and motivated employee will better service your customers
  • A more motivated, satisfied and emotionally balanced workforce - much of this is driven by an increased sense of choice and control, and appreciation of the options on offer.
  • Competitive advantage - the ability to retain talent throughout their lifetime career cycle and a reduced choice of competitors to lose them to
  • Increased talent pool - the ability to attract high quality candidates who would otherwise not be interested in working for you
  • And in some circumstances, reduced overheads - effective use of shift working and hot desking can increase space and infrastructure utilisation

Best practice guidelines include:

  • Rather than simply assuming that traditional work patterns and organisation should prevail, review business and employee requirements in terms of meeting customer needs, employee satisfaction and ensuring compatibility with relevant legislation.
  • Look for examples of best practice in other organisations' and consider how this might apply in your organization or provide ideas for alternatives. Do not assume that a successful solution can simply be imported - management inclination and capability along with organistion culture and business needs require a bespoke solution that works for you and your people.
  • Have success measures, including productivity indices, labour turnover, sickness and absence rates. Set targets for performance. Treating this area with the same rigour as any other investment will increase credibility and thus, in turn, sustainability.
  • Consult with management and staff representatives about options and implementation - there is little point imposing something that is geared to give people increased control and choice - the implementation approach should model the values.
  • Support management through implementation. Monitor progress and amend as appropriate. Incorporate this into managers objectives, organisation values. Recognise that it will take time, be open about successes and problems - work together to find the best solution.

Work Life Balance and the competition for talent

  • Options for working are increasingly varied with the growth in independent consulting and contracting.
  • New entrants to the labour market look more closer than ever at the organisation's track record on corporate social responsibility
  • Highly talented employees are increasingly willing to negotiate on working terms and to factor in considerations far wider than simply pay


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