How to implement flexible working successfully

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Flexible working is becoming an increasingly popular topic of discussion. It’s no wonder when studies show just one third of UK workers are happy with their work-life balance, but a mere 6% of job adverts promote flexible working.

Employers have, perhaps understandably, found it tough to ditch the nine-to-five norm. However, a flexible working policy managed appropriately can only be a positive thing for a modern working environment in the digital economy. We have previously helped to explain why flexible working is important for employees – here we’ll attempt to show why it’s also important for businesses and how it can be implemented successfully.

When we talk about the benefits of flexible working for employees, it’s easy to make the connection with how this will positively impact the happiness, and therefore, the productivity of the workforce. The main points to keep in mind when it comes to the benefits for the employee are:

  • Individual work-life balance
  • Removal of geographical barriers
  • Reduce the hassle of the commute
  • Allows workers to be more productive
  • Allows workers to use their own tech
  • Can help them to be greener

These employee benefits will naturally produce positive outcomes for the employer. Benefits would come in the form of staff satisfaction, heightened productivity, a happier workforce, decreased staff turnover and the opportunity to choose from a larger pool of talent, among many others.

Whether it’s looking at working from home, job shares or varied working hours, employers face challenges when looking to implement a policy of flexible working. But in the digital economy, where people are looking for a greater work-life balance, they will look elsewhere if their employer isn’t offering a flexible way of working. The traditional nine-to-five now feels restrictive and outdated when methods of communication have been enhanced to the extent they have.

The challenges

The challenges facing an employer are varied and do depend on the type of business you are operating. Nothing is insurmountable, though, so let’s look at the potential hurdles CIPD research discovered employers may need to overcome:

  • Operational pressures
  • The requirements of your customers/clients
  • Managers’ ability to manage flexible workers effectively
  • Line management attitudes
  • The existing culture of the organisation
  • Lack of support from a senior level

If you face these challenges head-on and implement well thought out processes that are appropriate to your business, this can and will be a simple move to make. A simple move which will make your workforce happier and your company an attractive prospect for talented individuals looking for a forward-thinking employer.

How to implement a flexible working policy

  • Make flexible working an option, rather than a necessity. As previously mentioned, the more traditional employee is probably very comfortable with their fixed hours arrangement and that’s great for them, because they’re happy. Making it an option will mean there’s a way to make every employee feel comfortable with their arrangement.
  • Make the policy clear for all of your employees. Ensure that the ground rules are all documented and then communicated within the company so everyone knows where they stand with the policy. This will eliminate any potential blurred lines. Also, if any employees have a flexible work agreement with you, make sure this is also drawn up and communicated.
  • Advertise your flexible working policy in your job adverts. This will help you to avoid missing out on the best talent. As previously discussed, the modern worker will seek a company with a flexible working policy and appreciate transparency. Not only that, but if you don’t shout about your policy then no-one else will. Your policy will do you no good if it’s hidden.
  • Invest in effective technology which will complement your new flexible working processes. For example, use services that will allow file sharing with ease so that it’s straightforward to access documents on the go. Remember, you will also need to invest in quality security to reflect a more mixed IT environment.
  • Empower all individuals, whether they are HR, managers or employees to understand their role in making the switch to flexible working a success.
  • Encourage communication and make sure all methods are suitable and effective.
  • Ensure line managers are sufficiently supported. Flexible working will mean the way they manage will naturally change – make sure they have all they need to continue their role effectively.
  • Incorporate goal setting and then create a process to track progress in light of your company’s new flexible working policy.
  • Ongoing management of the new process. Monitoring the situation will ensure it remains an effective and productive way of working.

You know the ins and outs of your business, so you’re best placed to know how the introduction of a new flexible working policy is likely to impact your processes.

Flexible working won’t be compatible with every individual or every industry – at least not necessarily in the same way – but the benefits of this progressive way of working should be considered by all companies even in a small way.

With effective implementation and ongoing management, there’s no reason this new policy can’t become an integrated, normal process. With the main benefit being staff satisfaction, an increased work-life balance and, therefore, a more productive workforce, the positives of this process apply for both employer and employee.

If you need advice on flexible working or any help with policy review, let’s talk.

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