The subject of flexible working is becoming increasingly popular among HR professionals; we have already touched upon the major talking points of this work practice. The various advantages of flexible working are already well documented, and more businesses are recognizing its increasing importance for younger generations. According to research, 67% of employees wish they were offered flexible working, with 70% of workers feeling that offering flexible working makes a job more attractive to them.
For SMEs, however, there are challenges in implementing an official flexible working policy. Research carried out by Smarter Working Initiatives found that SMEs are less likely to introduce flexible working compared to larger institutions, saying that only one in two employees are offered flexible working in companies with less than 50 people.
Here are 3 tips to consider before implementing a flexible strategy for SMEs.
1. Defining flexibility
Firstly, it should be clear to those working for smaller businesses that they have the right to request flexible working after completing 26 weeks of continuous employment. In making this transparent, employers are already ensuring everyone that they are open-minded and trusting of their staff.
Successful flexible working policies – ones that increase productivity whilst being fair for all employees – can only be created after in-depth research on the businesses’ needs.
"Agile companies, no matter the size, recognize that flexible working is not simply leaving employees to their own devices. In clearly articulating the official policy to staff members, employers can avoid employees making inaccurate assumptions."
Find out more about our Agility framework here.
2. Handling flexible working requests
Whilst all employees have the right to request the right to flexible working, employers should equally stress that not all requests have to be automatically greenlit. It is ultimately up to the employer’s judgement, and the employee’s schedule, how the proposed flexi working can positively impact the company’s performance. For company's with a strong agility framework, this process should come easier.
Flexible working requests should be considered and dealt with within three months of the date they are received. These proposals should additionally be discussed in a face to face meeting or telephone conversation in order to clearly establish the reasons behind the request in question.
In times when two or more employees have filed requests, the CIPD suggests that each request should be dealt with in the order in which they were filed, no matter the reasons behind them.
3. Offering flexible working for future employees
As previously mentioned, prospect employees look highly on the clear offer of flexible working when applying for jobs.
When writing job adverts, the employer must be clear on what they need from the candidate. For example, in making a position part-time, the business has the potential to attract a more experienced individual best suited for a small business. Before making the hire, confirming with the respective team that they will be able to work around the new flexi-working joiner can avoid future concerns surrounding their atypical schedule.
In our upcoming article, as part of our flexi-working insights, we will look into how technology has shaped the way modern businesses approach flexible hours.