Flexible working

Flexible working is here to stay. Many employees really value flexible working and many employers understand the importance of offering it.

Flexible working is important

The latest Salary & Recruiting Trends report issued by Hays (which garnered over 13,400 responses) highlighted;

  • 62% of employees would be tempted to change jobs if they could choose how often they were in the workplace
  • Over half of employees are willing to take a lower-paid job if it improves their work / life balance
  • For a third of workers, the most important consideration when looking for a new job is work / life balance
  • Over 80% of employers believe that offering employees flexibility working is essential in attracting and retaining talent
  • Over 40% of employers believe that varied working hours make it easier to maintain a work / life balance

The Flexible Working Bill

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill aims to give employees greater access to flexible working and the right to request it from day one of their employment. Under the new law, workers also have the right to make two flexible working requests in a 12 month period rather than one. More on that a little later.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working is being able to work from home and/or having flexible working hours that suits an employee’s needs. Another popular phrase is ‘hybrid working’ – mixing working from home with time in the office.

As the Hays report highlights, many employers have been quick to grasp the mettle. 72% of employee respondents stated that they offered hybrid working – up from 47% the previous year.

Rules and regulations

Advice on flexible working

In England, Scotland and Wales all employees have the legal right to request flexible working. (Different rules apply in Northern Ireland.) This legal right is not just for carers and parents. Currently, the employee has to have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks before making a statutory application. Only one request can be made in a 12-month period. However, as mentioned above, this may soon change. The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill has passed its second reading (and the committee stage) and is now at the ‘Report stage’.

How to handle flexible working requests

The most important thing is to handle a flexible working 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 flexible working request in a reasonable manner, then the employee can take them to an employment tribunal. 

Flexible working arrangements

Flexible working does have its downside. Collaboration can be a challenge. 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.

flexible working

4 tips on how to manage teams remotely

  1. Communicate. It’s so important to keep talking to your team. Keep lines of communication open. Ask how team members 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 interaction with 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

Free, expert advice

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‘.