Why Getting Flexible Working Right is Good for Business
The last 24 months have seen most employers forced to implement remote working, usually at little notice, and on a scale that no one could have foreseen. Under these circumstances, it is understandable if the whole experience has left most employers feeling blindsided by the tectonic shift in the way people expect to be able to work.
Recent reports of a significant increase in flexible working claims in the Employment Tribunal reflect this clash, and are indicative of how difficult it can be for all parties to adapt to ways of working which have gone from the exception to the norm, overnight.
Embrace flexible working, don’t fear it
However, choosing to embrace rather than fear flexible working arrangements can result in productivity gains for your business, give you an edge in a hyper-competitive labour market, and make it easier to retain key staff.
There has been several in-depth research reports into employers’ and employees’ views of homeworking, hybrid-working and flexible hours, with many of the associated positives being greater efficiency (with resultant financial impact) and greater job satisfaction. There are, of course, potential drawbacks (e.g. burnout through increased hours, lack of face-to-face interactions and potential management issues), but all of these can be addressed if flexible working is engaged with.
Take a pro-active approach and consult with staff
Taking a pro-active approach and consulting with staff on possible modes of flexible working can make staff feel involved in the process and can result in policies that are tailored to the needs of the business. The alternative – putting a policy in place simply because it is popular without thinking about how this will operate in reality – is likely the reason for increasing numbers of tribunal claims.
Actively approaching employees about this issue can also provide you with an opportunity to consider whether offering employees a right to switch off would be appropriate, for example. Such matters have gained national attention therefore most workers will be acutely aware of these issues; they may even be expecting their employer to be contemplating these things as a matter of course.
Not a one-way street
Flexible working doesn’t have to be a one-way street. By taking the front foot, employers can bring their employees along with the decision-making process, which creates the best possible chance for positive gains to be made. Think about how flexible working could be used to enhance your business and employee relations, rather than viewing it as a source of potential disruption. Doing so can have a much more beneficial impact on the workforce and the business overall.
Author: Jonothan Scollen, Employment Law Solicitor at Howarths