Can any organisation today afford to ignore flexible working? This concept is likely to become an increasingly prominent part of how businesses and workforces operate over the coming years.
Companies that find themselves receiving more flexible working requests will need to give some careful thought to the benefits and drawbacks involved, particularly in relation to business concerns such as costs and productivity.
- Lower office costs
Having fewer employees in the workplace at any one time can open up many opportunities for cutting costs. There could be less need for computers and other office equipment, for example, and utility bills could also be reduced.
If your business places a big emphasis on flexibility and innovative working methods, it might be possible to gain major financial and efficiency benefits from downsizing your workspace or adopting practices such as ‘hot-desking’ – whereby desks are allocated to individuals as and when they are required.
- Happier Staff
Offering the option to work flexibly could help employees to improve their work-life balance, which could make a big difference to workforce satisfaction. As well as being a positive for staff, this is good news for the business because happy workers will be more productive and less likely to take time off sick.
- Appearing progressive
How an employer comes across – to existing staff and prospective candidates alike – is critical to how successful it will be in retaining its most valuable workers and attracting new employees with key skills.
Providing flexible working arrangements will help to convey the image that many 21st-century workers are looking for in their employer – modern, progressive and concerned with the needs of its employees.
- Making the right judgements
Many employers are likely to find themselves receiving more requests for flexible working over the coming years. Not every request can be granted, and the decision-making process can be complex and difficult.
If you find yourself dealing with conflicting requests, are there policies and procedures in place to help make the decision? It might seem rational to prioritise the needs of parents and carers when evaluating multiple requests for flexible working, but this could be seen as discriminatory against people who don’t have children or dependants.
- Ensuring ongoing productivity
One of the big concerns many managers will have when faced with flexible working requests is guaranteeing productivity. How can you be sure that someone who has just started working remotely, for example, will be just as efficient and able to keep up with their workload as they would be in the office?
This is partly a communication issue, which leads into the next point – when people are working remotely or doing flexible hours, their managers and colleagues might feel that clear, immediate communication is more difficult.
- Lack of contact
There are many technologies and tools available these days to help co-workers stay in contact, wherever they are, but those of a more old-fashioned mindset might feel that there is no replacement for straightforward, face-to-face communication.
As flexibility becomes a more common element of how workforces function, the onus will be on managers and business leaders to ensure that teams retain their cohesion and there is no impact on workplace communication, collaboration and efficiency.
There’s no doubt that flexible working has become more common in recent years and that trend is likely to continue in the years to come. There are many benefits businesses and individual workers can gain from this phenomenon, but it’s important to be aware of – and take special action to avoid – the possible pitfalls.
With such a wide range of technologies, new working methods and communication solutions available to employers today, there is no reason why flexible working can’t be a universally advantageous endeavour. However, it’s crucial to think carefully about how you implement any new working methods, with the right policies and systems being put in place to guarantee positive results for the company and your employees.