Making sure that staff are happy has become a top priority for many organisations, and one main reasons is because they have reaped the benefits of flexible working. It’s a win-win situation, boosting productivity for the business and generally creating a healthier and more positive workplace for everybody.
It’s no longer the case that the only return staff need from their job is a pay packet at the end of the month. Among other things, they want to feel valued and to work in an environment that contributes positively to their wellbeing.
With so much competition for talent, it’s particularly important for businesses to meet these expectations. For lots of them, staff benefits are key to retaining and hiring the best.
The most common benefits include healthcare insurance, retirement/pension plans, paid holiday time, subsidised gym membership and performance bonuses.
Then there’s flexible working. Flexible working is a popular perk and as it happens, all employees have the legal right to request it after 26 weeks at a company. And you have the statutory obligation to give it full consideration. So if you’re not already offering flexible working, you may not be able to avoid it.
Does flexible working fill you with dread, or can you see the benefits?
Boost productivity and profits
Flexible working arrangements give employees more freedom over how, when and how long they work.
In 2014, when the UK Government extended flexible working rights to all workers, not just parents or carers, the thinking was that it wanted to make workplaces “fit for the 21st Century”.
The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills said it wanted to change the culture in British workplaces.
“Family-friendly policies and economic growth can go hand in hand,” it said – by helping employers boost productivity and profits.
The Department said that, over a decade, flexible working could add to the UK economy to the tune of £475m, by:
- Increasing productivity
- Lowering labour turnover
- Reducing absenteeism
The Government also revealed wider-reaching effects such as helping to reduce unemployment and a better work-life balance; improving employees’ health overall.
How to implement flexible working
Flexible working isn’t just about letting staff work from home – something that often inspires fear amongst management – and there’s no need to go all-in like Netflix.
At its California headquarters, the media streaming firm decided to stop tracking work hours and holiday taken. Employees are instead measured by what they actually get done, although, of course, it operates a no-tolerance policy for staff who take liberties.
As extreme as that sounds, the arrangement certainly hasn’t done the billion-dollar firm any harm.
Netflix aside, there are lots of ways you can offer your staff a little flexibility. For example, you could allow them to work part-time, or flexitime where they work chosen core hours, such as 10am to 4pm. Or you could offer job shares, splitting responsibility for a single job in two, and creating another role.
Another popular option is annual hours – where the number of work hours are calculated annually but the staff member completes this, reasonably, within their own time. There are usually set core hours.
An alternative is the compressed work week, so a standard 40-hour week could be worked over a shorter time for instance, working 10-hour shifts over four days.
Why you shouldn’t fear a little flexibility
Flexible working is increasing in popularity, and lots of employers recognise that, as far as staff benefits go, a little flexibility can be a game-changer for both businesses and employees.
Often larger firms have the resources to accommodate flexible working, but it’s growing in popularity across all types of businesses as they realise that it can be used to attract talent – and it doesn’t hurt your reputation as a forward-thinking business either.
In a study by the Chartered Business Institute, almost all (97%) employers believed that a flexible workforce was vital for UK competitiveness, business investment and job creation.
However, putting it into practice is a different matter. Often employers blanch at the thought of the extra pressure on HR and the perceived difficulties managing a flexible workforce.
But it would certainly be worth considering your options as an employer if, say, it brought about benefits such as:
- Recruitment and retention.
- Reduce absenteeism – for example, if you let employees work from home, they’re less likely to take the day off when they’re feeling a little out of sorts.
- Create work/life balance – which is increasingly demanded by workers, and contributes to a happier workforce.
- Boosts engagement – with staff being more productive and more receptive/loyal to the company.
- Allows organisations to extend opening times to customers.
- Avoid redundancies.
If all that wasn’t enough, for small and medium businesses perhaps the biggest benefit is the opportunity to save money on office space.
When staff work from home, there’s no need to fork out for a fixed desk for every worker – something that could save UK businesses as much as £34bn annually.
While offering flexible work hours can be challenging for some firms, there are benefits to be gained for businesses of all sizes. So if it’s not already part of your benefits package, don’t flounder if a member of staff asks about flexible working – it could actually work to your advantage.
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The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.