Flexible working has become something of a buzzword in modern businesses and a whole bunch of leading companies in every industry now offer their employees a flexible working environment. Many of the benefits of flexible working are widely documented, but there are also a lot of misconceptions about what it has to offer staff and employers.
There’s a lot more to flexible working than staff merely sending emails from home in their pyjamas, and more benefits than most employers probably realise.
The benefits of flexible working everyone knows about
In any discussion about flexible working, other buzzwords and phrases like “work-life balance” and “workplace satisfaction” are always key talking points. These are worth talking about, too, because they are important elements of flexible working and two of the key benefits.
A quick Google search tells you everything you need to know (and a few things you don’t):
The problem is, these are nice concepts, but also things you can’t measure in terms of business results. We’ll talk about this more later but first, let’s look at a quick list of the flexible working benefits you likely know already:
- Improved work-life balance
- Increased workplace satisfaction
- Stronger staff motivation
- Enhances staff recruitment and retention
- Reduces stress, fatigue, apathy and other productivity killers
- Reduces absences
These are all perfectly valid benefits you can get from flexible working and some of them are measurable. For example, numbers of absent days can be measured very easily and accurately. Each of the benefits mentioned above contribute to increased productivity and job satisfaction.
That’s right, the benefit that really matter to employers is improved productivity, and the means to achieve this is by creating a more dynamic workplace. On that not only maintains a happy workforce, but also makes it easier for them to do their jobs.
The business benefits of flexible working
When you think of flexible working, do you imagine people working from home or coming into work whenever they feel like it? If the answer is yes, that’s okay . These are the common features of a flexible workplace – but there’s a lot more employers can do to turn flexible working into a more productive business.
Essentially, there are two key aspects to flexible working: flexible hours and flexible locations. According to HRD, there are seven types of flexible revolving around the hours people work:
- Part-time: Working less than the normal hours, less hours in a day or less days in a week.
- Flexitime: Also known as flexi-time, flex time, flex scheduling or the implementation of a flexi system. Generally includes core working hours that must be worked by employees, as well as flexible working hours where employees can come and go as they please.
- Annualised hours: Employee hours are worked out over a year rather than a week/month. Employees have to work a certain number of hours over the year but they have some flexibility about when they work.
- Compressed hours: Employees work agreed hours over fewer days.
- Staggered hours: Different starting, break and finishing times for employees in the same workplace.
- Job sharing: Sharing a job designed for one person with someone else.
- Remote Working: Telecommuting, working from home, virtual.
Location is the other key factor in flexible working. Though, keep in mind remote working isn’t just all about letting staff work away from the office. In fact, one of the most important elements of flexible working is designing a workplace with creative spaces, meeting rooms, and a range of working environments to meet the needs of staff as they change.
As UK office design agency Office Principles explains, “Flexible working is about bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology together, allowing for flexible working patterns and office space,” which starts with creating an office space that provides the flexibility your team needs in one place. It all comes down to making it easier for employees to get more done, boosting morale and business productivity at the same time.
For employees, a flexible working strategy can help them enjoy a happier life at home and a work. This is important, of course, but suggesting a satisfied workforce is the main benefit of flexible working for employers overlooks the key target: productivity. Staff morale is a key component of productivity but a string flexible working system aims to help employees complete tasks faster and more effectively – and this starts in the office, not outside it.