Flexible working is not a new concept, but it is often accompanied by the preconception that this arrangement is purely for working parents rushing in from the chaos of the school run. Organisations in today’s new world of work are increasingly embracing a flexible, supportive environment that provides employees from all backgrounds with the opportunity to make meaningful improvements to their work-life balance.
Flexible working gives employees the freedom to choose when they want to work, and within the hours that best suit them. There are numerous and varied ways an employer can adapt the traditional 9-5 working model to create a mutually beneficial arrangement, such as reduced hours, compressed hours, working from home, or working alongside the school calendar year.
Giving your team the option of flexible working is a great way to keep them happy, but it’s more than an office perk or incentive – it has the potential to increase employee engagement and productivity, boost profits and reduce absenteeism.
According to a survey by Vodafone, 83% of employers and employees said flexible working increased productivity, and a further 61% said flexible working increased profits.
In order for your organisation to revamp its policy on flexible working, it’s important that you create a culture that supports this approach to work. Consider these three points as you prepare to get your organisation ready to introduce flexible working:
1) Prioritise quality over quantity.
Besides juggling work and family commitments, there are a number of reasons why an employee might opt for flexible working hours: from completing a master’s degree, to setting up their own online business, to training to compete in the Olympics.
But an employee’s inability to commit to traditional workplace hours does not necessarily indicate an inability for them to perform, nor does it suggest a lack of career ambition. In fact, it often means the opposite.
From a traditional viewpoint, the most hard-working, committed and effective employees are the ones that arrive first and leave last - but the number of hours spent in the workplace are by no means a reflection of good performance. For instance, one employee might be able to achieve the same results as another, but in half the time.
Carefully consider how performance is measured in your organisation. Is it based on productivity and results, or do superficial metrics such as time in the office unconsciously come out on top?
2) Establish an environment of mutual trust.
The demand for flexible hours is on the rise, with 67% of employees wishing they were offered flexible working as an option.
According to employment law, all workers have the legal right to request flexible working after being at an organisation for 26 weeks or longer, but many will fear it might jeopardise their position.
The key ingredient here is trust. Your organisation will need to trust that its employees will manage their time in a way that does not compromise productivity. On the other end of the spectrum, your employees will need to trust that this arrangement will be respected and that it won’t compromise their position or prospects within the organisation.
3) Communicate clear expectations.
If an employee asks for flexible working hours, set up a conversation to establish their requirements. Discuss the methods by which the employee will still be able to meet their objectives and consider how you can negate any impact on internal and external customers.
A crucial element of this discussion is to make sure both your expectations and your employee’s are clarified in detail and ensure all objectives are clear, achievable and measurable. When will they be available to work? How will they continue to manage customer relationships?
Encourage employees to be realistic about what they can commit to; if they overextend themselves, they are far more likely to be consistently late, absent or underperforming.
If you allow employees to work from home, it’s worth noting that the right technology needs to be in place in order for them to do their jobs. Do you have the necessary software, laptop and tablet devices, video communication tools, or remote access to emails?
By allowing your employees the freedom to determine when they want to work, you’re giving them the responsibility to manage their own performance and results. With concrete expectations and performance-based metrics in place, this trust-based approach to work is proven to be hugely beneficial to both you and your employees.