Flexible working is officially on the rise. From flexitime to remote working, working from home to staggered hours and job sharing to part-time positions, there are many different types of flexible working, which means the way many of us work is changing dramatically. In fact, thanks to improved technology and connectivity, many of us can now work whenever and wherever we want - and it’s actually law that after 26 weeks of service, most employees have the right to ask for flexible working.
For employees, the benefits are obvious: they have a better work/life balance, they have more control over their schedule, and they can factor work in round their own life and responsibilities. But there are actually a number of benefits for employers too, such as increased productivity, higher morale, greater staff retention, and a more agile workforce. And as the competition for talent continues to heat up and employee expectations continue to get higher, flexible working is set to become increasingly common in the next few years.
In fact, research suggests that there will be a 40% increase in the number of large businesses who support types of flexible working in the next two years, with nearly half saying they will have some employees working full time from home within two years. But what does flexible working really mean for your agency? If you’re still not convinced by the benefits or are unsure whether flexible working is right for your agency, you might be surprised by some of the hidden benefits…
Without a doubt, the biggest benefit of flexible working for employers is that your staff feel more valued - which significantly improves their morale. Flexible working reduces stress and fatigue, meaning that your employees will stay focused and perform well, and it helps with engagement too, with research from the CIPD showing that flexible working practices can improve staff engagement and motivation. That means your staff will work harder for you because they feel more committed to your company, bringing enhanced success to both your individual employees and your agency as a whole. Basically, the more valued your staff feel, the better it is for everyone!
If your company has happy staff on the inside, it will show from the outside. By offering flexible working you can create a positive employer brand so your company is seen as attractive, fair and flexible - showing potential candidates that your agency is a good place to work. Not only will this help you attract talent and increase the pool of applicants you have for vacancies (especially amongst younger generations who put a much higher value on work/life balance), but it’s also a fantastic way to retain existing talent too - especially those whose circumstances might have changed and might not be able to continue working standard 9-5 hours.
Flexible working is one of the key ways to build a more diverse workforce of employees with different lifestyles, family responsibilities, and ages. A mixture of young graduates, interns, staff working part-time because of family commitments and older, more experienced professionals looking to vary their working week means you can keep your agency buzzing with ideas. Not only that, but it also means your staff can look at things from different perspectives so you can deliver your best work. Basically, diverse workforces have a much broader mix of skills, knowledge, and experience, giving organisations more creativity and flexibility - and it’s been proven that increasing diversity leads to better staff retention too.
Another big benefit of flexible working is that it’s relatively inexpensive to implement and offers quick, measurable ROI. For starters, you can save on overheads by allowing your staff to work from home. If everyone is in the office at the same time, then everyone needs a desk or workstation - which means you need the space and equipment to accommodate them, increasing your overheads. Staggered home working and hot desking can improve office efficiency whilst at the same time bringing costs down - as well as helping to reduce the costs associated with absence, tardiness and sick leave. Finally, it can help to keep recruitment costs down too as a result of better staff retention - and because a number of people often value flexibility over financial remuneration, you can save some additional pennies too.
Having staff members who are regularly out of the office can have an additional positive effect on the team as a whole thanks to shared responsibilities and skill sets. That means that the likelihood of skills silos is decreased, and by giving employees a chance to take over tasks they might not normally handle you can help them grow their skills and give them a more varied work life - all of which boosts morale and at the same time ensures productivity doesn’t drop when people are on holiday or during periods of staff turnover.
Despite the many benefits of working from home, it also comes a few challenges. Overall, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, however, there are a few things employers should consider when offering remote working options.
A common issue with working from home is the impact on working hours. Many people struggle to switch off after a hard day of working as they find it difficult to determine when work begins and ends.
Working in the office means that at the end of the day, employees can head home and leave work at the office. Due to virtual workplaces, employees have constant connectivity to work, so fully switching off is not as simple as leaving the building at the end of the working day. In turn, this can have a negative impact on work/life balance. So, it’s important for leadership teams to set boundaries in order to help manage employees wellbeing whilst working remotely.
When it comes to sickness, company policies are usually very clear for office-based employees. If you’re ill and unable to work, then you can take the day off. Unfortunately, for people who work from home, the lines are slightly blurred.
Often, employees who work from home will struggle to churn out work while feeling bunged-up or groggy. The negative impact on workers is obvious - lack of recovery time, feeling awful and worrying that you’re not working hard enough, but the implications for the business can also be detrimental. While sick-working employees might be available online, there’s no real guarantee that the quality of work they’re able to do is to company standards. Errors will likely be made, which could have wider complications for the business.
It’s important for employers to set clear policies when it comes to sickness and working from home. It can be hard to get the right balance but offering flexibility and encouraging open communication can help to look after employees’ wellbeing and ensure the quality of work isn’t compromised.
One of the biggest challenges of remote working is the lack of team bonding, especially when onboarding new team members. It’s hard for newbies to build relationships with their colleagues when working in isolation. While some enjoy working on their own in a quiet environment, many thrive in an office space, where ideas can freely bounce around and colleagues can offer support for one another.
One way to overcome this issue when working from home is to organise regular meetings and calls to give teams the opportunity to speak freely outside of the day-to-day tasks and duties. This is also a great way to encourage team bonding, which is essential for creating a good working environment.
In conclusion, in the days of landlines and before laptops or the internet when workplaces relied heavily on manual admin and paper-based processes, where we worked and how we worked were as inextricably linked as they were inflexible. However, thanks to today’s improved technology and connectivity, many of us can work whenever or wherever we want.
Flexible working delivers a number of benefits for both employers and employees, however whilst half of UK employers offer flexible working arrangements, a recent CBI report found that just one in 10 job listings mentions it - which means that offering types of flexible working could help your agency stand out from the crowd and improve your talent attraction and retention. If you'd like to find out more about flexible working, or are looking to find the right people to bring skills into your workforce, contact Stonor today.