Introduction to Flexible Working
What is Flexible Working?
Flexible working is work which allows employees to work in different locations, different hours or at different times than what was initially agreed. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic flexible working is becoming increasingly in demand from workers, creating an opportunity for employers to demonstrate their adaptability and company culture to existing and potential employees. There are many different ways of flexible working, which can provide solutions for a variety of employee situations, employer needs, and industry requirements. Some of these practices include:
Working fewer hours than full time:
- Part-time or term-time working: the employee remains on a permanent contract, but works fewer hours than full-time, based around school times and holidays for term-time workers.
- Job-sharing: part time working where two (or possibly more) people share a role between them.
Full time hours in a different pattern:
- Flexitime allows employees to choose when they begin and end work, within certain conditions.
- Compressed working weeks: your employee works the same amount of hours, but the hours are organised differently, usually into fewer blocks with longer hours per block.
- Annual hours are a fixed number of hours which an employee must work over the course of the year, but the exact working patterns (per week or month) are not fixed, and employees may or may not have a choice in these patterns.
No fixed hours:
- Zero-hours contracts: an individual who can be asked to work as and when required, but who no guaranteed working hours and who are just paid for the hours they work.
- Commissioned outcomes are jobs which aren’t dependent on calculating hours worked, but are measured on an individual’s output targets.
- Career breaks – extended periods of leave which are normally unpaid.
Change of Location:
- Remote working: employees may wish to work all or part of their week at a different location from the workplace. This is also known as mobile working.
There are other examples of flexible working, such as self-rostering or taking time for training. Furthermore, different arrangements can be formally or informally introduced, based upon the needs of the employer and individual. Some may choose to amend the employment contract if and when new working arrangements, or to include the policies in the employee handbook, but some arrangements may be more likely to be offered on an informal basis.
Flexible Working and Covid-19
The pandemic has seen a massive shift towards flexible working practices, with remote working having been compulsory for much of the workforce for whom it was possible. In this situation, changing the working situation has helped businesses to continue despite the difficult circumstances, and has proved beneficial for many workers, by allowing them to forego lengthy commutes and providing some with a more focused environment. However, flexible working also presents new challenges which were not present in office-based working, such as over-working or mental health issues provoked by feelings of isolation, so businesses should be aware of these when thinking about implementing a flexible working policy.
Of course, changing agreed employment structures may not be suitable for all jobs, but there may be options which are suitable for different kinds of working. When thinking about implementing a flexible working policy for different roles, it is preferable that line managers and, ideally, employees are consulted about what they believe would be best for their situation. For example, if remote working is not possible, speaking to employees about implementing flexible shift patterns or compressed working weeks may also be an option. For further information on the importance of employee communication, see our article, Improving Employee Communication: Why Bother?
Flexible Working: the Current Situation
Flexible working en masse is still relatively new, and there remain issues which still need to be worked out in many industries. However, the option of adaptability is intensely popular. Many employees who currently have no opportunity to adjust their working terms would like a form of flexibility. However, they worry that changing their working arrangements may lead to reduced hours or hamper their career growth aspirations. Furthermore, ensuring that all the team feels included of their working situation may present a challenge to managers.
Overall, flexible working presents new opportunities for employers to demonstrate their care for employees. By adapting different working structures, you can demonstrate your desire to retain talent and grow your business. You can implement some aspects fairly easily to improve employees’ mental health and work-life balance. However, there are also some dangers surrounding flexible working meaning employers should be vigilant to maintain their workplace culture.
In-House HR helps businesses with the necessary HR procedures by taking the strain of people management out of your organisation. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.