Benefits to employers of flexible working

Benefits to employers of flexible working

It is common for employers to see flexible working as something that employees would want but there is often scepticism around whether there is also a value to employers. We will now explore how an organisation would benefit from flexible working, and what organisations can do to promote such practices.

There are considerable benefits to employers of flexible working. Here are some of them:

1. Flexible working broadens the range of talent within the organisation


Flexible working can mean different things to different people. For example, for some it means being able to continue to work from home, for others it means not having a set start and finish time (and there is, instead, a focus on what is being done rather than when), for others it may be being able to avoid travelling for meetings and being able to use Zoom instead. The above are basic examples of how obstacles could be overcome.


A person who has other commitments during the day, may be entirely able to complete the required work in the afternoon or evening, as many people did successfully during the pandemic. Others may find it difficult to attend meetings, or get to an office, if travelling a long distance is required this difficulty may be, for example, due to not driving as a result of a disability, or alternatively a candidate may be deterred from applying because of the long commute that is required. In such situations working from home and using Zoom may be a viable alternative.


Some employers may think ‘if people can’t get to the office then that is their loss.’ That view is too simplistic. For example, what if the people who could not travel would have been perfect for the role but did not apply because it was a requirement that staff would work from head office? In such a scenario there is a loss to the individuals in terms of the lost opportunity, but there is also a loss to the organisation: a loss of talent. A commitment to flexible working reduces the likelihood of such a loss and therefore increases the range of talent available.


2. Flexible working increases the skills and experience within the organisation as well as staff retention


There can sometimes be a sense that certain working environments or roles lend themselves to younger people, but why is that? Is it because the nature of the role is physically demanding? Perhaps, the particular workplace requires staff to constantly work late at the office? The idea of never switching off may have less appeal for employees who suddenly find they want a better work life balance due to a change in circumstances or priorities.


There are too many circumstances to list, but there are typically warning signs which indicate there are problems to address, such as an exodus of staff leaving due to similar circumstances, or there is a disproportionately low number of staff with a particular demographic, such as being over a certain age range, or perhaps there is a pattern of people leaving or not progressing after life events such as having children.


The effect of such an exodus can be damaging to an organisation as it causes a loss of skills, knowledge and experience which would otherwise be in place. Flexible working increases the likelihood of people staying and progressing at the organisation, regardless of how their lives evolve.


3. A commitment to flexible working showcases the organisation’s values


Organisations need to demonstrate how they are different from others in order to attract the best candidates. Highlighting a commitment to flexible working indicates to stakeholders that the organisation believes in fairness and is keen to remove obstacles which prevent people from achieving their potential. People are likely to want to be associated with an organisation because of the positive values it holds, whether that is an individual deciding whether or not to apply for a job, a person that is considering making an investment in the organisation, or another organisation contemplating making a charitable donation. Whatever the situation, a commitment to flexible working practices is likely to positively affect the way in which the organisation is perceived by others.


4. Flexible working promotes equality in the workplace


Flexible working arrangements are likely to reduce the disadvantage that those with protected characteristics may otherwise experience. Taking such steps is likely to reinforce a sense of fairness within the workplace, and therefore staff are less likely to bring claims, such as discrimination, at an Employment Tribunal.



What should employers do to support flexible working?


1. Consider what the job needs


It is common for organisations to feel a sense of comfort in the view that work should be at the office with staff starting and finishing at specific times, where managers are able to physically observe whether staff are being productive or not. This is particularly the case when things have always been that way. These feelings are understandable: if things are working why change it?


The answer is that without exploring how things could be different the organisation is unaware how much better things could be. How should this transition begin? By examining what the role actually requires to be done effectively. What tasks do staff undertake as part of their role? Obvious examples are that people working on a factory assembly line would need to work at a particular locality, whereas someone undertaking advisory work may be able to undertake the required work from any location, as was demonstrated during the pandemic.


It can be challenging for organisations to analyse the tasks that a role requires and what is and what is not needed for the role to be undertaken effectively. The challenge for the organisation is to be as flexible as possible whilst ensuring that the measures support, rather than undermine, productivity.   


The key here is for organisations to keep an open mind and make decisions based on evidence rather than relying on past habits.


2. Recognise that flexible working is not a perk


As referred to earlier, the benefits to employers of flexible working are considerable. It is another way to help to recruit and retain high performing people who will ensure that the organisation thrives. Seeing flexible working as a perk or a reward, rather than a means of helping the organisation to succeed, undermines the value of it to both organisations and individuals.


3. Provide training for managers


Training is key to effective flexible working arrangements. Such arrangements should be considered from beginning to end, rather than simply responding to requests as and when they arise. Training can relate to a number of areas such as addressing the misconceptions around flexible working, identifying when it would be appropriate, and implementing measures to ensure that any decisions support the goals of the organisation.


4. Maintain performance management and review targets


Some organisations may have felt that performance was adversely affected by working from home, such as during the pandemic, but why was that? It may have been because performance management discussions were not taking place as they would have done before, or perhaps the necessary equipment was not in place, so the transition was not a smooth one. Again, training can help managers to ensure that staff always work effectively.


5. Consider what more could be done


Flexible working should be regarded as an ongoing process. Organisations should review these arrangements, as they would for other procedures, to ensure that they are still fulfilling their intended purpose.


Plotkin & Chandler work exclusively in the areas of HR and employment law. We can assist with all aspects of flexible working practices from providing advice on how to implement flexible working to delivering training on performance management. To discuss your requirements, and the ways in which we can help, call us on 020 3923 8616 or email us at info@plotkinandchandler.com











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