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Flexible Working: Benefits and Implementation

What should companies consider when thinking about introducing flexible working?

Benefits of Flexible Working

Flexible working can provide benefits for both businesses and employees, both directly and indirectly. Flexible working options can be attractive to new recruits, and increasingly employees are wanting the permanent implementation of some sort in their roles where possible. Work-life balance is becoming increasingly more important, and research has shown that flexible workers generally have higher levels of job satisfaction, productivity, and commitment in comparison to those who do not work flexibly. Flexible working also has the ability to reduce absence rates, and allows employees to manage any long-term health conditions, as well as their mental well-being. In these ways, and others, flexible working has the potential to benefit both employees and employers, as productivity may well rise in the event of a happy and healthy workforce.

There are also some direct benefits for businesses, such as saving on office space by using technology to aid remote working and hot desking. Flexible working may also allow businesses to provide a better service by matching working resources to business demand, such as providing service to customers 24/7.

Implementing Flexible Working

There are a number of different kinds of flexible working (see our article, Introduction to Flexible Working, for a more detailed consideration of the kinds of flexible working), and each will present its own challenges in effectively implanting the changes. However, some barriers may include overcoming the attitudes of both customers (who may have concerns about operational pressures) and the existing workforce (including both line managers and employees who may have concerns about the impact of flexible working on team cohesion and productivity). There may also be an uncertainty at senior levels of organisation which may hamper confidence in flexible working and their concerns may filter down to the workforce. Furthermore, even if all involved are positive about implementing flexible working, existing organisational culture or an inability to measure employee performance other than by working hours may present some challenges.

In order to address these concerns properly and implement any flexible working arrangements smoothly, employers should ensure that communication is open and encouraged between the employer and employees, and that the process of flexible working is clearly established with defined roles and responsibilities for all employees, teams, line managers, and HR. This may involve finding more creative ways of flexible working and communicating, and creating a supportive organisational culture which is clearly supported by HR and management. The benefits of flexible working should be highlighted to employees upon implementation, and ideally there should be ongoing evaluation of flexible working (both for productivity and employee wellbeing reasons) to ensure that the arrangements are positive for both employee and business. It is also important that employees do not feel like their career aspirations or their access to learning and development tools will not be negatively impacted by flexible working.

Supporting Flexible Workers

There are a number of important things to remember once flexible working is in place:

  • Communication with others is vital. Flexible working should not make employees feel invisible, so clear and effective communication is vital between managers and employees, and within teams. Furthermore, some managers may have difficulties adjusting to the new arrangements which require them to place a larger amount of trust in their teams and change their management style accordingly. Support, and possibly training where necessary, should be made available to managers to help them overcome this issue.
  • Individual employee contracts may need to be amended in the rise of flexible working to reflect the new arrangements. The rights of flexible workers should be exactly the same as office-based staff, and employers should ensure that they have equal access to learning and development programmes, as well as having equal access to any promotions or career progression opportunities.
  • Just as with office-based employees, employers need to ensure that both office spaces and equipment are used safely, and that remote workers know and understand the health and safety concerns surrounding their role.

Employers also have a duty to consider a request for flexible working, regardless of whether the employee has dependents, or other caring responsibilities. This request must be considered in a reasonable manner, and if refused, employers should explain the reasons behind the refusal, pointing to specific conditions or grounds. Similar procedures also apply for requests for flexible working due to studying or training. Some workers don’t have this right, such as agency workers, but it is still advisable for employers to treat this request with due attention, and follow a similar procedure as with permanent workers.

Flexible working has many proven benefits, but there should be a careful plan of implementation to ensure that any prospective issues are dealt with early on. Flexible working can improve an employee’s efficiency and their mental health, offering wide benefits for businesses, but employers should ensure that the risks associated with flexible working – feeling cut off from the team or organisation, concerns about career progression, or a negative impact on an employee’s work-life balance, for example – are minimised through careful monitoring and ongoing evaluation.

In-House HR helps businesses with the necessary HR procedures by taking the strain of people management out of your organisation. Our service not only allows you to centralise your personnel records in one secure place, but also saves you time by providing documents and policies necessary for your business, and customised for your ease. Clocked-In, our absence management system, does more than manage absence. It also provides you with employee performance reviews, a built-in organisation chart, and an emergency roll call, among other features. To learn more about In-House HR and Clocked-In, visit the features pages on our website, or email us at We look forward to hearing from you.

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