Flexible working arrangements are in demand and play an important role in attracting and retaining talent. However, a remote team presents challenges. So, with new rights for employees coming into force this year, are your managers ready to address the challenge of flexible working?
The Shift Towards Flexible Working
Many of us have other responsibilities which make it difficult to commit to a fixed 40-hour working week. In the past, this has prevented many highly skilled people from fulfilling their potential. In addition, it has limited the pool of candidates for recruitment. However, digital technology, cloud storage and business hubs enabled a fresh approach.
The shift towards flexibility was fast-tracked in 2020, yet many businesses are still working to achieve the right balance of remote and in-office working. What works in one team can be impractical in another, so there is no set formula. However, new laws mean this is an issue that needs attention.
Flexible Working Laws
Two changes in Law will impact the workplace in 2024. Until now, the option of flexible working has been at the discretion of the employer, but employees will gain more rights.
Firstly, from the start of April, employees have the right to request flexible working from day one of employment. These must be given fair consideration, with a prompt response provided.
Then, in July, the Employment (Flexible Working) Act will empower employees and other workers to request specific working hours or locations. If requests are denied, they have greater powers to appeal the decision through a tribunal.
Your Flexible Working Policy
The way to embrace these changes is to embrace changes in workplace dynamics. This includes being open to different ways of achieving business goals and considering the benefits to the organisation, employees and customers. Also, map out limitations, when core business objectives can not be met with a flexible working approach.
It can be insightful to talk with employees to understand their perspectives on flexible working. Seek to understand what is important to them and be open to their suggestions for a workable system. in Some cases, small changes might be enough to satisfy their needs and improve work-life balance.
When you have a workable plan in mind, create a Flexible Working Policy. This should be in line with your legal responsibilities and clearly outline working options and limitations. Mindset offers a policy writing and reviewing service to ensure that the document is compliant and inclusive. Our objective perspective can pick up on points that you may have overlooked.
In addition to a Policy, it is advisable to include any permanent flexible working arrangements in employee contracts.
Why Do Employees Value Flexible Working?
Employees value flexible working because it helps them strike a better work-life balance. Moves to accommodate this are shown to improve employee loyalty, job satisfaction and health. As such, it supports productivity, collaboration, retention and lower absentee rates.
With the high cost of childcare, the option of a later start or earlier finish is a godsend for working parents. However, they are not the only ones with responsibilities. In an ageing population, more people are taking on caring roles for older family members. Being a carer doesn’t mean that employees want to give up a rewarding career. Being adaptable can help you to retain their skills and experience.
For some employees, health or neurological conditions make it difficult to travel to a workplace or focus for 8 hours a day. Shorter shifts or home working options offer an inclusive solution. You benefit from their talent when they are most productive.
The ideal candidate might live beyond commutable distance, potentially overseas. Or, you may have employees who are keen to pursue studies or a volunteer role. By embracing flexible working solutions, they can live a more rewarding life and you can extend your talent pool.
What are the Downsides to Flexible Working?
In some roles, the opportunities for flexible working are limited. Staff have to be in a set location at set times to provide services, manufacture goods or complete projects. It could be incredibly disruptive if employees have different start times.
One of the biggest challenges is managing remote or flexible working teams. It demands effective communication to understand strengths, keep track of progress, identify issues and monitor productivity.
Another concern is disengaged employees or individuals who take advantage of the Policy. There are always some people looking for an easy ride, no matter what the work set up. When standards fall, this needs to be promptly addressed. It relies on managers building a trusted relationship with their team to maintain motivation and commitment.
Managing flexible workers also requires a shift of thinking from process to outcome. What does each individual need to contribute for the business to consistently achieve its goals? If they meet or exceed expectations, does it matter when or where the work took place?
Adapting to Flexible Working
Whatever your views on flexible working, the new legislation encourages businesses to adapt. Consider how you can enable employees to have a better work-life balance and the benefits this can open up for your business.
Mindset applies business psychology to build supportive corporate cultures that encourage healthy, productive and successful workforces. Get in touch if our services can support your actions.