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Let’s talk about flex

Flexible working is having a moment. After remote working, co-working and hot desking, flexible working is being touted as the modern panacea for all business woes.

Also referred to as flex-time or flexible hours, it is, at its core, whatever you want it to be. Employees might work at home some, or all of the time. They may be given the choice to work late and come in later the following day. Two employees might job share, or your workforce might get time off at your discretion.

It simply means giving employees the power to work at the times that suit them best and research suggests they are clamouring for the perk.

According to a survey conducted by powwownow.co.uk:

– 57% of workers have the option of flexible working (but 24% of those don’t utilise it)

– 67% of workers would like to have flexible hours

– 58% of people believe they would be more motivated if they could work away from the office

– 30% of people would choose flex-working over a pay rise

– 56% of people believe their managers should adapt their skills to accommodate remote working

It might appeal to your staff but is flexible working right for your business?

Flex appeal

The case in favour of flexible working is a strong one and can be quickly delineated into the five Fs:

Freedom. Give employees more autonomy over their workload, more opportunity to sustain a work-life balance, and they will have a sense of ownership over their work, making them more committed to doing a good job.

Focus. More time to rest, and more time dedicated to social and leisure pursuits, and employees will be better able to apply themselves at their desks.

Family. For parents, flexible working can negate some of the anxiety about juggling a job with a family. The big winners are mothers who are looking to re-join the workforce on a part-time basis; jobs that would have once been closed off to them entirely suddenly become possible.

Fairness. It’s not just parents who benefit. Childless employees still get the option of flexible hours to pursue side hustles and hobbies. It reduces the tension between those who can work long hours and those that must leave their desk by 5pm.

Finance. There are cost cutting implications for businesses if employees hot desk or permanently work from home.

   >>Like this? Read Co-working vs hot desking: what’s the difference?

Break or bend?

As with all things, there are pitfalls to flexible working that means it is not right for every business, and these can be broadly defined as the three Cs:

Communication. Flexible working demands that your business has the right technology in place to enable quick and easy communication. Without this, messages go unanswered, meaning is lost in translation and a simple question can result in a drawn-out email chain. For companies that require regular meetings, flex time presents a problem. Confusion can reign if colleagues are not aware of one another’s movements.

Collaboration. In 2013, Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo!, banned employees from working from home on the basis that collaboration is integral to business success – and that means working side by side, in one office.

In an email sent company-wide, she said: “It is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”

Culpability. If you feel more comfortable being able to see what your staff get up to in a day, then flexible working may not be for you. Similarly, if you are an employee who needs the motivation of an office to keep you productive (i.e. ‘working from home’ quickly descends into watching Netflix with your inbox open) then you may want to think about whether a flexible workspace will drive you to achieve.

While flexible working certainly has its merits, no business, of any size, should incorporate it into its culture without careful consideration. Will you need new infrastructure? Will equal provision be made for all employees? And how will you keep track of who is off, when?

Flexible working may be the way of the future but there is still some inflexible thinking that must be overcome first.

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