For many employees, flexible working is the holy grail of employment. It allows better control over work-life balance and can accommodate family responsibilities, not to mention the fact that it makes for a pretty easy daily commute. However remote working, variable daily hours, or a compacted schedule can present challenges for employers. Here are our top tips on how to make flexible working, work.
From an employers perspective…
They may not all realise it, but for most businesses the pros of flexi-time will outweigh the cons. As one of the most famous advocates of this, Richard Branson adopted flexible working across his business empire when he realised that if companies want to find – and keep – the best employees, they need to build flexi-working into their talent strategy. The numbers don’t lie. Branson cited that 87% of the UK’s full time workforce either works flexibly – or wishes that they could.
The most talented candidates generally have a lot of experience behind them, which comes at a price and we don’t mean in terms of salary. Those with a young family or other commitments besides work will be attracted by the offer of flexible working as it means they don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. A study by FlexJobs highlighted that 81% of employees cited remote working as the one job perk they most wanted. Even if a request for flexible working isn’t down to familial responsibilities, employees feel more positive when their bosses listen to what the workforce wants, are less stressed and therefore generally more productive. A happy and efficient workforce is best for any business, because productivity equals profits. Find out more about other ways of increasing productivity here.
When looking for a job
For candidates worried that their need for flexible working might be detrimental to an application, focus on what you can offer. Employers want the best person for the job. That’s the one who is most skilled, has the right attitude and who is going to help them drive business growth. If that’s you, employers might be willing to accommodate your need for flexible working time. If the role is already advertised as open to flexible, job-share or part-time workers, then there’s no reason why you have to explain your personal reasons for wanting this arrangement.
As with any job search, your application needs to be strong. Make sure that you cover all questions the employer will want answered in both your cover letter and CV. Why are you going for the role? What skills and experience will you bring to the company? This will help you sell yourself as the best for the job and make negotiating your terms more comfortable.
Making a change
It’s slightly more difficult to broach the subject for employees already in a role. For those that haven’t worked at a company for a long time, you might need to build up trust before negotiating this point, to show that you are a credible worker. If you will be working from home for a few days, show your manager an outline of what you plan to achieve in those days. You can back this up with a summary of actual actions taken once you’re back in the office. This can help allay any concerns over the employer not being able to monitor performance.
It’s the nature of business that most companies are risk-averse and making any change to normal business practice when you can’t know the outcome is in effect, a risk. Will it work? Will profitability or productivity suffer? Many managers are also afraid to rock the boat and be the one to change the status quo. Employees need to understand the worries of employers when it comes to the prospect of flexible working. If you can anticipate the reasons for them saying no, you’ll know how to reassure them, so show them how flexible working will enable you to work more efficiently.
The jobs market still has a long way to go before flexible working becomes an adopted practice, with part-time, or flexi options currently making up just 6% of all advertised jobs. Both employers and employees have their part to play in changing this. Employers must realise that remote working does not mean that the employee will be any less efficient. If anything, most people work more productively from home. Furthermore, candidates need to be more confident in asking. But if a billionaire businessman thinks it’s wise for employers to look at flexible working options, chances are he knows what he’s talking about.