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The pros and cons of flexible working

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To mark National Flexible Working Awareness Day, Phil Turner ponders the pros and cons that it brings to business.

Can flexible working hours really help your business?

The desire for flexible working hours is increasing among British workers, studies have shown.

According to a recent survey by Direct365, over 35% of all UK workers would make flexible hour arrangements their number one employee benefit.

These results coincide with Flexible Working Awareness Day, which celebrates companies that already offer this to their employees, as well as raising awareness of the benefits to those who are yet to embrace the concept.

However, as it seems more and more employers are under pressure to provide staff with flexible working hours, it raises the question: does it work for every business?

It depends upon the size, capabilities and type of company – and ultimately – how feasible it is for employers and employees alike.

Is there a legal aspect to consider?

Since 2014, workers have been able to apply to their place of work for flexible working hours and their employer is obliged to officially consider the application. However, this is only available to those who have worked there for 6 months.

To ensure that their response abides by this legislation, all employers must:

  • Organise a meeting with the employee to discuss their application
     
  • Make a decision on the pros and cons of the application and decide what effect it would have upon the business – good or bad
     
  • If the request has been denied, an opportunity to appeal must be provided

The advantages of flexible working hours

  • Employee retention: this can be seen as a major perk for staff. Not only can it improve morale, but their commitment to the company as a whole.
     
  • A boost in productivity: if employees are able to deal with pressing personal matters without being confined to the rigid 9-5 working day, they are more content and focused on their work tasks.
     
  • USP when attracting new candidates: this is not a staff benefit that every business provides, so will give your company the edge when looking to hire highly-skilled employees.
     
  • Financially beneficial for both employer and employee: not only does it mean less energy use in the office, but your workforce will appreciate the savings on commuting – plus the chance to avoid those dreaded rush-hour traffic jams.

What are the disadvantages?

  • If left to their own devices, some employees may be less disciplined without the structure of an office environment.
     
  • There is a fear that staff members may become isolated if not working as part of a team for an extended period. This could have a negative effect upon productivity and morale.
     
  • Not all staff members have the equipment or technology to make working from home feasible – providing them with the capability to do so could be expensive.
     
  • Staff may become overworked if they don’t abide by their standard office hours. Working from home without a commute, may prompt them to work longer hours.

Don't lose face-to-face contact

There are clearly two sides to the flexible working hours argument.

We believe that even though there is a place for flexible arrangements in the modern workplace – the execution and structure of such provisions is crucial. Boundaries need to be clearly put in place to avoid any disruption to business.

However, a lot of businesses are clearly struggling to find the right balance. It’s not uncommon for someone to be sat at their desk all on their own for an entire day because the rest of their team are either working from home or have been given permission to switch their hours.

Technological advancements have made communication easy, but you really shouldn’t underestimate the importance of face-to-face contact. We’re in danger of losing good old-fashioned ‘watercooler talk’!

Phil Turner

By Phil Turner

Head of digital at Direct365.

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