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The Facts About Flexibility

On25/ 01 /16

What works and what doesn’t

In the past few years, flexible working has entered the mainstream. Thanks to mobile devices and Wi-Fi networks, we now have the technology to work virtually anywhere. This has generated a growing trend for business offering flexible work options.

The idea of flexible working is attractive to workers. In a survey by Jobsite, 66% of employees said that if given the opportunity, they would request flexible working. In truth, anyone employed in the UK for at least 26 weeks has the legal right to request flexible working.

But does it really work? What challenges does it present and could we be approaching the end of the conventional 9-5?

What does flexible working mean?

Flexible working is a general term to cover any working pattern that is adapted to a worker's needs, however the term can mean different things to different companies.

Most of us will be familiar with the concept of ‘flexi-time’, however buzz words such as ‘telecommuting’ and ‘the condensed working week’ also seem to crop up.

Whilst, flexi-time normally requires core hours to be spent in the physical work place, condensed hours offer even more flexibility. Employees can effectively work a series of longer days, allowing them to taking a whole or half day off during the week.

Elsewhere, some companies now employ staff remotely and communicate with them by email and video conferencing tools such as Skype and Facetime. This new trend is often referred to as ‘telecommuting’.

The Benefits

Flexible working offers some obvious benefits. For working parents, gone are the stresses and strains of trying to organise the school run. It can be ideal for those with disabilities who may have trouble travelling into an office every day and companies can look to source talent from further afield.

There are also big gains to be made when it comes to work-life balance, with workers given more opportunity to pursue hobbies and interests outside the workplace. Studies have even shown that flexible working hours can help to increase job satisfaction and decrease absenteeism.

The Challenges

Work quality and continuity are often concerns with flexible working and employers need to put enormous faith in their workers. What’s more, things can easily be missed and issues can crop up when a worker is not there.

Isolation is another worry for those working remotely. There must be sufficient person-to-person interaction to ensure that employees feel a part of the organisation, whether in the form of a Skype call or real face-to-face meetings.

Remote workers need to be able to work independently and find their own motivation – and let’s not forget the discipline required to avoid inevitable distractions!

The Take-away

Flexible working offers both companies and their employees many potential gains.

It can help improve work-life balance and employee morale. It can help companies to recruit the right workers, no matter what their situation or where they are in the world. It can also allow employees to pursue their personal goals alongside those of the business.

Nevertheless, it does require mutual trust, great organisation and flexibility on both sides. It also needs to work for the organisation –and sometimes the only way to be sure of this is to trial it.

Flexible working could well be the future and providing clear expectations are set, it could be the key to developing positivity in the workplace, and helping companies and their employees to grow and prosper.
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