Although flexible working is becoming a standard policy across many industries, managing flexible work arrangements effectively is a challenge for many teams. From coordinating workspaces and equipment to maintaining productivity and engagement, making flexible working work for everyone is key to maintaining business performance.
Here’s some advice on what to consider and how to manage flexible working effectively in your business.
What are the flexible working regulations?
Defined as any type of working pattern that is different to your current agreement, flexible working can involve reducing the number of hours you work per week, changing the hours you work, job sharing, flexitime or changing where you work for all or part of your working hours.
Under the Flexible Working Regulations 2014, anyone who’s been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks has the right to make a flexible working request to their line manager or HR department. A standard flexible working request template says that this must:
- Be given in writing.
- Be dated.
- Give any details of previous applications for flexible work.
Any employer must then reply to requests within three months of the application in a ‘reasonable manner’. If the employer agrees, they must reply to the employee with a statement of the agreed changes and a start date for the flexible working agreement. Any relevant changes to an employees contract should also be made within 28 days of this agreement.
Alternatively, an employer can reject an employee’s application for flexible working for a range of reasons, including extra costs that will damage the business, an inability to reorganise the work amongst other staff and the impact that flexible working will have on quality or performance.
Employees also have the right to appeal any request rejection that they feel is unfair through a company’s established procedures or tribunals.
How to manage flexible working effectively
To manage flexible working effectively, your business first needs to be clear about what its policy is to your managers and employees. From here, you can start to establish clear guidelines and provide effective support for your teams.
Review your flexible working policy
Whether you already have a flexible working policy in place or not, it’s key that you review and write it to ensure it best suits the needs of your business. Depending on your industry and your employees’ expectations, this policy can be as strict or otherwise as your team feels is appropriate. However, it should set out:
- What your employee’s rights are with regards to flexible working.
- What the company offers with regards to flexible working.
- Who is responsible for dealing with flexible working requests.
- What the flexible working request process is.
- What employees should do if they want to dispute a flexible working request.
Once you have this policy in place, you can start to communicate the key parts of this to your team.
Create a flexible working manager’s guide
If your managers are responsible for dealing with flexible working requests, then it’s key that they understand how to deal with these requests and their impacts effectively. Creating a manager’s guide to flexible working will help them to understand the steps for dealing with any requests, how to agree or reject them and advice on any arrangements that need to be put in place to make flexible working effective.
This will minimise any confusion in the process, ensure that any requests are dealt with effectively and make sure that managers feel confident in helping their team to work flexibly wherever possible.
Make the flexible working process clear
To ensure that employees are aware of their rights and the company’s position on flexible working, then any policy or processes need to be clearly communicated to them. This can be done through internal communications initiatives, shared documents on the intranet or through one-to-one HR advice, but it is key to making sure there are no misunderstandings between managers or employees.
Move from management to support
As well as putting thorough policies and processes in place and communicating them clearly to your teams, offering additional support will ensure that employees can work effectively while working flexibly.
This can include helping employees set up equipment, putting regular welfare catch-ups in place or running performance and wellbeing reviews for colleagues. These support systems will ensure that employees remain engaged and productive and ensure that the business benefits from all the advantages flexible working has to offer.