In the face of the shifting workplace trends, more employees are now prioritising the work-life balance that flexible work arrangements (FWAs) offer, as much as they seek a higher salary.
Employers have been forced to rethink ways to encourage employees to return to work and attract new talent, which has increased the demand for flexible work culture. With studies showing higher employee satisfaction and engagement under FWAs, many employers have recognised and embraced the trend.
The UK government has also made the necessary provisions to allow workers to apply for flexible working. Now employees who have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks continuously have a legal right to make a statutory application to request flexible working. If an employer rejects the request, they must provide a business reason to support their refusal. Otherwise, the employee can file a complaint with the employment tribunal.
common types of flexible working
FWAs are usually offered either in the form of location or working hours flexibility. The most common types of flexible working include:
- Remote work – In this FWA, employees can perform the job from anywhere (remotely) as long they have the necessary equipment and technology. This can be either at home or in another location other than their usual workplace.
- Job sharing – Refers to an arrangement where a full-time job is split between two employees, each working part-time. The employees can either use a twins model, where they collaborate on the same projects, or an island model, where they work on individual tasks independently. Job sharing is beneficial in boosting employees’ well-being, especially on stressful jobs.
- Part-time – A part-time arrangement involves working fewer hours than a full-time job. An employer can define what qualifies as part-time status, but this is usually less than 35 hours per week.
- Compressed hours – In this arrangement, an employee works full-time hours, but the work is condensed to be completed in fewer days. For instance, a five-day workweek may be compressed into a four-day workweek, requiring the employees to work longer days.
- Hybrid working – An employee can alternate between working on-site and off-site under a hybrid arrangement. It can also refer to a companywide working arrangement that allows some staff to work on-site and others to telecommute or work remotely.
- Telecommuting – Differs slightly from remote work in that it’s not entirely location independent. As much as the employee works off-site, in telecommuting, the employer restricts where they can work from, meaning they have to be based within a specific region. Mainly, this is because the position requires them to work on-site from time to time, maybe for catch-up sessions or meetings.
- Flexitime – This is another arrangement offering working hours flexibility that allows employees to choose when their workday starts and ends. The arrangement still requires them to work weekly full-time hours, only that they get to design their day around certain core hours, allowing them some conveniences in their outside work engagements.
- Staggered hours – Employees working staggered hours have a start, finish, and break time schedules different from other workers.
- Annualised hours – This arrangement requires employees to work a defined number of hours during a year but allows them to choose when to work. In some instances, they might be required to work some core hours during a week or, when there’s increased demand at work, then work the remaining hours flexibly.
- Phased retirement – With the default retirement age (65) having been phased out, older workers can work for as long as they want. In this arrangement, they can request you to continue working more flexibly, though you have a right to reject their request by offering a justifiable business reason.
WHY IS FLEXIBLE WORK IMPORTANT
Flexible work is important both to employers and employees. It allows employees to have a better work-life balance, leading to increased job satisfaction and improved productivity, factors crucial in fostering employee engagement. On the other hand, employers benefit as increased productivity contributes to better business performance. Allowing employees to work off-site also saves company resources as a remote-friendly workforce requires less office space and utility expenses.
Here’s a breakdown why flexible work is important for businesses and their employees.
flexible work benefits for employers
- Attracting and retaining top talent – As Deloitte writes, flexibility is a talent magnet and retention tool. FWA is one of the top three reasons highly skilled workers choose to work with a company.
Since many companies went full-remote during the height of COVID, many workers are no longer used to or uncomfortable with returning to traditional 9-5 days at the office. When employers fail to offer flexible work arrangements, employees are increasingly opting to resign. Allowing employees to work flexibly is therefore crucial to increasing retention.
- Boosting employee engagement – Flexible working enables employees to achieve better work-life balance, increasing their job satisfaction. Flexible schedules also reduce their stress and increase their productivity. Consequently, they become more engaged in their roles, which benefits the company in many ways.
- Saving on salary and benefits – Flexible work arrangements can reduce the costs of employee salary and benefits. For example, in some situations, contracting part-time employees or consultants can be more effective than hiring full-time employees. The time spent on admin, hiring, and benefits for part-time employees or freelancers is much lower than for full-time employees, which can bring about significant cost savings for the business.
- Hiring a diverse workforce – Companies are scaling worldwide, and the job market is more competitive than ever. With many workers securing jobs internationally, hiring exclusively local talent can limit your chances of recruiting highly qualified candidates. Opening your workplace to remote talent gives you access to the global talent pool and creates a more diverse workforce, sometimes at a lesser cost, without compromising candidate quality.
flexible work benefits for employees
- Reducing stress and burnout – Introducing flexible work arrangements has been shown to reduce employee stress, minimising the risk of burnout.
- Fostering work-life balance – Offering various types of FWA allows employees to choose an arrangement that promotes their work-life balance. This way, they can accomplish more at work, without neglecting their personal responsibilities.
- Boosting productivity – Working flexibly increases employee satisfaction, improving their productivity and performance which can boost their career growth down the line.
- Improving employee morale – Offering FWAs to your employees shows that you trust them to do their best work when given autonomy, which can lead to improved workforce morale and loyalty.
4 WAYS FLEXIBLE WORK DRIVES HIGH EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT
According to a Gallup study published before the pandemic, flexibility drives employee engagement. The study found that engagement was highest among employees who work three to four days remotely. Here is how flexible working achieves this:
TEAMS ARE MORE EFFICIENT AND PRODUCTIVE
Autonomous work with low authority and high accountability encourages teams to be more efficient and productive. In addition, with little to no commuting, employees have more time to work and meet deadlines. Another huge perk of flexible working is that it allows employees to work during their most productive hours, increasing individual employee efficiency.
Ultimately, efficient and productive employees tend to be much more engaged in their roles.
GREATER TRUST IN THE COMPANY
Flexible working culture cultivates greater trust in the company. Allowing staff to work remotely shows that you trust them to make the best decisions for the company when given the independence and autonomy to work at a distance. This culture of mutual trust creates a higher sense of employee accountability and reduces the need for micromanagement, encouraging each team member to do their best and closely align their own goals with employer expectations.
STRONGER CROSS-TEAM COLLABORATION
Flexible working places great responsibility on teams. To work efficiently, they must collaborate and communicate with each other transparently. This calls for creating robust peer feedback processes, mainly using tools that support asynchronous collaboration and communication. Ultimately, an environment of collaborative learning helps teams support each other and drives higher employee engagement.
GREATER EMPLOYEE RETENTION
Employers are increasingly turning to FWAs as an incentive to retain great talent. With employees’ demand for flexible work, an employer who offers attractive FWAs can drastically reduce staff turnover and increase employee retention. According to a recent Microsoft Study, more than two-thirds of UK workers want flexible work to stay.
Flexible working creates better work-life balance, which means happier employees. Combining FWAs with career progression opportunities further increases employee job satisfaction and engagement–and loyal employees are less likely to look for opportunities elsewhere.
Effective L&D teams create career progression opportunities with internal career mobility programs to help their employees upskill from within.
START BUILDING A FLEXIBLE WORKING CULTURE IN YOUR ORGANISATION
To build a flexible work culture that best suits your organisation and its teams, it’s important to consider and practise workplace inclusivity. DEI training helps staff and managers understand concepts like unconscious bias and neurodiversity in the workplace–and how to respectfully and effectively engage with and manage a modern workforce that comes from many different places and backgrounds.
The truth is that every single employee works differently and that can be a major strength for the business, as long as there are processes in place to support each employee in doing their best. Flexible working arrangements are a good start to help businesses achieve this.
To align your flexible working culture with greater business’ priorities, keep key business objectives in mind and communicate regularly with leadership as you develop your working policies and FWAs.
Author: Jocelyn Ho, US Content Lead at 360Learning
Photo credit: ANTONI SHKRABA production