Advice on flexible working – Regulations & Requests

Flexible working is here to stay and in my opinion that is a very good thing. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the proportion of working adults who did any work from home increased to 37% in 2020 (from 27% in 2019). Many employees are enjoying the freedom and savings which flexible working can bring.

Advice on flexible working

Flexible working – being able to work from home and/or having flexible working hours that suits an employee’s needs – can be a big draw. So can ‘hybrid working’ – mixing working from home with time in the office. Employers have been quick to grasp the mettle. The ONS recently reported that online job adverts which offered some form of home working had increased at a faster rate than total adverts.

Now, while there are many roles that will always need to be fulfilled face-to-face, sectors such Information and Communication (IC) seem set to include the increase of home working in their business models. The Business Insights and Conditions Survey recorded that 49% of IC companies were likely to increase home working in the future.

Flexible working regulations

However, it appears that a storm is brewing. The ONS also reported that 85% of adults who were currently working from home wished to use a hybrid approach (mixing office and home working) in the future. Employers were not so enthusiastic. 32% of businesses stated that they were not sure what proportion of their workforce would be working from their normal place of work.

Advice on flexible working

In England, Scotland and Wales all employees have the legal right to request flexible working. This legal right is not just for carers and parents. The employee has to have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks before making a statutory application (for now, however there are plans that the government will change the right to request from day 1 so watch this space!). So, just how do you handle a request of this nature?

How to requests

The most important aspect is to handle a request in a ‘reasonable, fair and consistent manner’. The employer should carefully assess the advantages and disadvantages of the application. A meeting should be held with the employee to discuss the request and, if necessary, an appeal process offered. An employer is well within their rights to refuse an application if there is a sound business reason for doing so. However, if the employer fails to handle a request in a reasonable manner, then the employee can take them to an employment tribunal.   

How to manage flexible working

The ONS also reported that adults working from home love the work-life balance most of all. On the downside, there were obvious challenges with regard to collaboration.

Managing teams remotely is becoming a vital skill all senior personnel need to learn to some capacity. While many senior staff have been adapting and learning to manage remotely, some may still need guidance on managing remote teams.

4 Top tips for managing teams remotely

1 Communicate. It’s so very important to keep talking to your team. Keep lines of communication open. Ask how they are doing individually and take concerns seriously. Demonstrate that you have heard them and that you have acted on their concerns. Make sure messages are in places where everyone can see them. Don’t just assume that a message will be seen and read in the group Teams chat or Slack channel. Repeat messages if necessary or, perhaps better still, contact team members directly. Communicate well and your team will function better. It should also help to garner trust and respect

2 Embrace asynchronicity. Asynchronicity is doing a task and not needing to wait for a response to continue with your work. It’s keeping busy and finding things to do and making sure that you and your work is not a blocker for anyone else. While it’s a principle from computer coding, it can apply to working in a team. Make sure you aren’t holding back your team from completing a task. And trust them to complete the tasks when they can. A big worry for managers with remote teams is knowing if their staff are working or not. If you can’t see them sitting at their desk, how do you know they are working? You have to trust them. After all, you probably hired them. Trust that choice and trust them as staff. If you find that they are causing a blocker by not completing their tasks, talk to them. Find out what’s going on and work with them to remove the blockers

3 Celebrate success publicly. This comes back to communication. Part of the issue of working remotely is that it’s easy to ask questions and ask for help when things go wrong, but the successes aren’t always talked about or shared. Success can be chalked up to everyday business and just moved on from. Make sure you take the time to celebrate success with your team. Whether it’s closing that deal, making the delivery on time, or hitting a target. Make sure the wins are talked about publicly and praised accordingly

4 Create opportunities for discussion. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. Part of working in an office is the social interactions with your colleagues; the informal conversations and moments in the kitchen that make strong, happy teams. It’s hard, but not impossible to replicate the opportunities for discussion during the day. Set up virtual coffee mornings for informal chat, wellness lounges to discuss any mental health issues or even use technological solutions like Gather to simulate working together. Make time and space for your staff to chat socially and make them feel like they belong

I’ve implemented these strategies in all the teams that I have managed and offered this advice to many managers. While not all this advice will apply in every situation, these are good places to start. After all, happy staff are usually productive staff. With trust and respect comes loyalty.

If you require any further advice on flexible working or have any questions, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation.

Read my blogs on ‘Preventing age discrimination in the workplace‘ and ‘How to deal with absenteeism in the workplace‘.