Flexible working arrangements

Flexible working arrangements

A woman in her home office on her computer

With more employees looking for permanent flexible working options, more businesses are bedding down their policies around what flexible options they can offer their workforces.

Flexible workplaces aren’t a new concept. Even before COVID-19 shut-downs and restrictions, flexible working arrangements were tipped to be a key part of the modern way of working. But the pandemic accelerated organisations need to allow their workforce to be productive when working remotely. Almost overnight the traditional view that people must be physically present in the office to achieve the required objectives was turned on its head. The productivity gains of remote working are now largely incontestable, while the real estate cost savings and staff engagement benefits are hard to ignore.

Flexible work also offers improved staff attraction and retention. As our Upskilling Matters report found, 89 per cent of employers say flexible working options are an important element in successful staff attraction and retention.

Additionally, our latest Hays Salary Guide shows that 64 per cent of jobseekers are looking for a hybrid working model with a flexible schedule when searching for their next job.  

Greater diversity of employees accessing flexible work

Clearly then, flexible working arrangements are important to a wide range of people. This includes employees who:

  • Have a long commute
  • Have ongoing caring responsibilities
  • Are ramping back up after parental leave
  • Want to pursue academic and skills achievement
  • Would like to improve their work-life balance
  • Found their productivity, output and job satisfaction improved while working remotely during COVID-19

What are flexible working arrangements?

Flexible working arrangements can involve any scenario that effectively allows an employee to achieve the required output and objectives of their job while also balancing their needs outside of work. It can involve altering the hours, location or pattern of their work.

For example, an organisation could allow employees to work flexible working hours, which involves altering their start and finish times, while still achieving the same output they normally would.

Or they could allow them to access flexible working days, whereby staff work only on certain days. This could be by job sharing, working part-time or working their permanent fulltime hours over four longer days.

Of course, flexible working also involves changing the location of work, such as working from home or an alternative location, such as in another country for example.

What should you consider before introducing regular flexible working options?

For flexible working to work for your organisation and for the employee, consider: 

Decide which flexible working options you can support

Organisations large and small should review what options they are able to offer and the conditions for each. The definitions around flexible working have recently been largely rewritten, but outside of working from home, flexible work arrangements might also consider:

  • Working from an office that different from where their team/manager is located
  • Working different hours or days
  • Working from a different country 
  • Job sharing  
  • Doing certain aspects of a job remotely vs in the office.  

Make the expectations around each way of working clear, and ensure it’s communicated to the entire team. Transparency engenders trust – an implicit element of flexible working.

Your organisation should also assess its ability to support flexible working, and the strength of the technology infrastructure including the right systems, online collaboration tools and video conferencing meeting technology.

Helping managers focus on outcomes

Continuously upskilling managers to oversee team members they will not see face-to-face is a must for supporting flexible work arrangements.

Not only does this require a renewed focus on setting, communicating and achieving outcomes vs putting in hours at the office, but they should also be upskilled in noticing any psychological challenges that remote workers might face such as isolation and loneliness.

Trust should be a cornerstone of your culture

In organisations where people are trusted to complete their work without micro-managing and where they understand the organisation’s overall objectives and how their role impacts them, it ultimately doesn’t matter where or when people work.

So long as targets are clear, and managers are explicit in their expectations, an organisation’s culture can influence the attitudes and behaviours of employees, who embrace the trust placed in them to perform at their best and proactively manage and deliver the required output.

Remote workers access to opportunity

Make sure everyone knows that you don’t have to be working the traditional 9-5 in the office to be eligible for advancement and upskilling.

Use internal communications to promote the training, skills development and learning that is available and showcase remote and flexible workers who are constant learners. Ensure all employees, including those operating remotely, are upskilled in the latest knowledge and learning required to do their job.

When employees do come together, ensure it is meaningful

When you bring your entire team together, it must be for quality, high-level and meaningful work that adds value. Employees who work flexibility may need to alter schedules to attend in-person meetings so earn the commute. Together work will always be an important part of working successfully as a team, so ensure that you make the most of time together and focus activities around collaboration and sharing of ideas.

A flexible approach to work has many benefits, for both you and your employees, provided you work through the above considerations and adopt the practice fairly. As more people start to return to the office, it’s a good time to consider your organisation’s flexible working policies and how they can be tailored for individual employees in an honest and transparent way.


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