More often than not I am approached by clients wanting to refuse a flexible working request rather than accommodate one.  Will 2017 bring about a change in this trend?

The benefits of flexible working have long been established, but I still wonder if some SME’s or sectors are lagging behind or if it is genuinely not for every company.  The most common requests still tend to be:

  • Flexible working hours
  • Home working
  • Part-time working

If your company expects your employees to check emails or take calls outside of the normal 9-5, is it wrong to dismiss an employee request for flexibility without proper consideration?

It’s natural to consider all of the reasons why it wouldn’t work and be worried about setting a precedent, but I’d encourage you to think of all of the benefits that could be had too.  There may be IT and equipment costs associated with setting someone up to work at home for example, but if they leave you if you decline their request, there are usually costly recruitment and training costs as well as potentially a dip in performance from the team affected instead.

The right to request flexible working is open to all of us.  Returning parents or carers can sometime struggle to meet personal and work priorities without a change to their work pattern, and there are plenty of articles out there showing that candidates are looking for companies that provide flexibility.  Do you want to be missing out on a growing pool of talent?

In my experience, rather than people ‘slacking off’, those who work flexibly appreciate their employer more and go the extra mile to ensure they are productive and engaged.  If their balance between work and life is right, they may be less likely to job hop and instead be an advocate for your business and how great it is to work for you.

Those clients I know who’ve tried it have been glad they did.  Not only do they report happy staff and an increase in productivity (and customer satisfaction), their absence and staff turnover rates came down too.  For those businesses where flexibility is harder to accommodate, part-time working can still be very effective, and you’d be surprised how many of your competitors are accessing a pool of talented, driven and loyal employees in this space.

There are many forms of flexible working and it’s all about trust, openness and finding a solution that works for both parties.  You can review requests on a case by case basis or decide to make it a part of your culture.  You could trial or negotiate new requests or consult to change patterns that just don’t work for your business.  HR are here to help you navigate the process fairly, but I’d encourage you to consider both sides before saying ‘it’s not for us’, or you could be missing out.

If you’d like any advice on the pros and cons of introducing flexible working in your business, please give us a call on 01621 730824 or tweet us @FriaryWest.

#HRAtoZ – F is for Flexible Working.