Does Flexible Working Work?
The new flexible working legislation was introduced in the U.K. in 2014. It previously only applied to carers or people looking after children, but now it applies to all workers. It was introduced to give employees increased flexibility when it comes to working in a way that suits them. The legislation gives millions of employees the right to request flexible working once they have worked continuously for the same employer for the last 26 weeks.
In Ireland, we currently don't have such legislation and the amount of flexibility granted is generally at the discretion of individual employers and are not governed by specific leglislation.
In the U.K. there are a number of different types of flexible working including:
Job Sharing - two people doing one job but splitting the hours
Working from home - doing some or all of the work from home
Part Time Work - working less than full-time hours (usually by working fewer days)
Compressed Hours - full-time hours over fewer days
Flexitime - the employee choose when to start and end work
Annualised hours - the employee needs to work a certain number of hours in the year, but they have flexibility about when they work
Staggered hours - the employee has different start, end and break-times to other employees
Phased retirement - older workwers can choose when to retire and may reduce their hours and work part-time
Regardless of the fact that we don't have similar legislation here in Ireland, the way we work today means that working with flexibility has become more common and more acceptable, particlarly in certain industry sectors. However, if such legislation existed here, would it help open up more possibilities for achieving the perfect work-life balance?
From an employee's perspective, there are virtually no downsides...
Employees would be able to choose a working option that works for them, contributing to reduced stress levels, increased productivity and employee satisfaction at work.
The only potential downside is that the "right to request" is "only the right to ask nicely" and does not guarantee that employers will say yes!!
From an employer's perspective....
The work will still be done, albeit in a slightly different, non-traditional way or in a slighly different timescale, but these changes should not adversely affect core business activity and productivity.
Giving employees more flexbility also means that they will show a greater degree of loyalty to your company (considering that if they move to a different employer, they will not be entitled to flexible working for at least 6 months - based on the current U.K. legislation).
Lastly and probably more applicable for younger start-up businesses, the decisions as to the type of investment required in bricks and mortar office space may be dictated by the flexible business model.
However some employers may have reservations due to a variety of concerns, which we'll address below.
Legislation or no legislation, with technology so readily available these days and with more and more employees looking for a better work-life balance, this type of flexiblity in the workplace will undoubtely increase. Small businesses are mostly flexible by nature and most business owners recognise the benefits of offering flexibility to their team without the need to have a "right to request".
Offering flexible working provides benefits all round but it may also raise some concerns around time management, stock control and staff efficiencies and productivity.
Modern business systems or ERP systems are flexible and dynamic, supporting the way businesses work, adapting and responding to change and opportunities; so even when key members of staff are away from the office, your workplace continues to operate efficiently, maintaining "business as usual".
Sage have put together a quick guide with top six tips to help businesses embrace this new way of working.
Click on the Guide Below to download.