Flexible working has long been something employees are legally entitled to request, but recent years have seen it become much more mainstream.
While traditionally things like compressed hours, part-time work and job shares have been offered on a case by case basis, many employers are now offering flexible working as a rule of thumb. And with studies showing that an employee benefit like this can lead to things like lower employee absence rates, and a happier workforce, it’s not hard to see why.
So what exactly are the different types of flexible working, and who should consider offering them as an additional benefit for their employees?
This is where employees can arrive at work and leave when they want within predefined limits. It usually works by having a set amount of hours that must be done per day (e.g. 7.5 hours excluding lunch) and a core working day where all employees must be present (e.g. between the hours of 10:30am and 3:30pm). Asides from that, staff are allowed to choose when they arrive at and leave from work. For example, one day an employee may choose to do 8am – 4:30pm, and the next day they may do 10AM – 6:30PM. This kind of flexible working can particularly suit creative sectors, where it’s more about producing exceptional, inspired work than being at the desk to answer business calls at 8AM sharp every morning. It can be a great way to ensure staff feel both rested and unstifled – all the better for getting those creative juices flowing.
Compressed hours are where staff have the option to work more on some days of the week so they can accrue hours in order to take an extra day off. For example, they may work overtime for four days of the week to accrue enough hours to take the Friday off. As long as they get their weekly quota of hours done and don’t miss any important meetings, they can take a day (or half day) for themselves as they please. This can be great for companies that often require their employees to stay late anyway, for example when important meetings overrun or tight deadlines require staff to pull long shifts in the office.
Allowing your employees to take this time off in lieu is a great way to build a feeling of trust and mutual respect at work. Chances are, if employees have tight deadlines they may end up working overtime some weeks anyway, but giving them the choice will mean they are able to take a break when needed. Most importantly, it’ll mean they have some autonomy and control over their working week, which goes a long way towards maintaining high levels of motivation.
Working from home
Working from home used to be a once-in-a-blue-moon treat that might arise from snowy weather or tube strikes. But over the course of the past year or two it’s gradually become the norm, with many companies offering it either officially or unofficially to their staff. This kind of lenience may manifest itself in employees working from home when they feel under the weather, or something much more regular with a set amount of ‘allowed’ work from home days to take per week or month.
Some companies are making remote working an even more integral part of their company culture than this, with virtual offices on the rise and 100% mobile staff becoming the norm. In other words, the desk is there if they need it, but they are generally free to come and go as they please. This kind of system can work well in modern, forward-thinking industries that want to move away from the static feeling of being tied to an office. It helps to replicate freelance way of life, which can be applied to anyone from graphic designers to recruiters.
Of course, there’s nothing to say you can’t offer your staff a blend of all three options above, creating a flexible workspace that feels rewarding rather than punishing. There’s a lot to be said for a company that focuses more on results than clock-watching, and staff will be quick to recognise this as a highly appealing work environment – one to stick around in for the foreseeable future.