07Sep

Is flexible working the new 9-5?


flexible workingThe summer holidays are over and the new school term has begun. If there are mothers and fathers in your team or department – maybe you have a family yourself? – then you’ll know the challenge of juggling work and family all too well. How can you make flexible working work for you?

Looking into what kind of incentives employees were keenest on, research by maintenance specialist Direct 365 found that around 35% of office workers would prefer flexible working. For them it cuts commute times and costs, and offers a chance to work when they’re most productive. For you, ditching the standard nine-to-five approach offers these pros and cons – but let’s start with the cons:

CONS:

The lack of atmosphere

That’s right – Friday gin o’clocks won’t be a thing. Not seeing regular faces in the office everyday can make colleagues feel more distant from each other, leading to a breakdown of close working relationships.

As many as 31% of workers in the survey by Direct 365 believed it would damage a traditional office culture. It’s up to you to decide whether that’s a bad thing entirely, or how you’d mitigate against that. You could try regular check-ins and meetings, and perhaps set a requirement for team members to gather once a week or month.

It’s hard to monitor productivity

When you’re strolling through the office, it’s hard to gauge whether staff are being truly productive when they’re working from home or anywhere away from an office. Some managers can be concerned that flexible working can hinder continuity in communications, meaning that it’s hard to keep up with who’s doing what. Again, it comes down to communication.

There’s more pressure on you

Giving parents or carers the pick of flexible working hours can be perceived by others as discriminatory against those without children or any dependents. It’s tricky to manage; how do you give employees with wildly different circumstances the same flexibility?

You can start with something as simple as offering flexitime around core hours, setting parameters for term-time and school holiday working, or part-time. You decide how flexible working best suits your business.

It seems like it’s easier for some

If some people are moving mountains to get to the office, but others are cosied up at home, it can seem like an unfair balance. As Georgette Stewart, Director of NSK Consultants says in an interview with Customer Experience Magazine (CXM), “other staff might perceive the workload of those working from home as easier, as they’re not experiencing the same environment as typical office-based staff.” This is down to perception, though.

Remote or flexible workers can feel they have to be online all the time to show they’re available. Some might be working from the time others are getting up to hit the road, or into the small hours. It’s trickier than it looks to balance home and work life when they share the same space.

PROS:

The business can shave a few quid off as well

You’ll be all-too-aware of the operating costs to support a full complement of colleagues. Fewer staff in the office means reduced running costs, associated with computers, office equipment and utilities, to name a few. You can also downsize to cheaper offices with smaller capacity if they didn’t all turn up on the same weekdays!

Happier workers

Flexible time for staff gives them time to spend with loved ones, with extra-curricular activities, and offers job satisfaction. They’ll still produce great work, but the feeling of autonomy can boost overall productivity and self-motivation and reduce stress. Even more importantly, it keeps staff turnover low.

Team members who have greater control over their working lives are more likely to feel trusted and empowered, and they’ll go further to achieve their targets. They’ll work smarter, not harder – and reward you for your investment.

It helps tempt new talent

Staying ahead of the curve on attitudes to work, and shaking off dusty old traditions, will definitely attract a wider pool of new upcoming talent and increase business opportunities. Flexible working allows you to source from a wider pool of workers – skilled mothers returning to work, graduates, and multi-talented ‘slashers’ (with ‘this-slash-that’ job titles), remote workers and job sharers can bring fresh ideas to the table.

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