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How to make flexible working work for your business

Working nine to five is no longer the reality for a lot of the UK workforce. Technology has given us the ability to work from our devices wherever and whenever which has led to a more fluid concept of the work-day – and companies that don’t embrace this significant shift reduce their ability to attract and retain top talent.

More than half of UK employees worked flexibly in some way in the last year, according to the 2019 CIPD Job Quality Index, including flexi-time, reduced hours and working from home.

But while UK law says all employees who’ve worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks have the right to request flexible work, this doesn’t mean all arrangements are fit for purpose. The CIPD research found one in five UK employees had no flexible working arrangements available to them, and two-thirds would like to work flexibly in at least one way that isn’t currently available to them.

So, what works? We’ve drawn on our own experience at Rullion and research from around the world to provide a concise guide.

In a nutshell: it’s a win-win for employers and employees.

Employee benefits include:

  • Ability to manage time more effectively: More autonomy typically leads to better productivity as employees feel increased ownership of their working lives.
  • Opportunity to better combine family and work: Employees who feel pressured to always prioritise work over family are voting with their feet – out the door to more understanding employers.
  • Improvements in work-life balance and job satisfaction: There’s been a significant rise in the number of workers placing work-life balance as their top priority, even above salary. Read more in our candidate perspective report.

Employer benefits include:

  • Improved staff attraction and retention: At a time of skills shortages, flexible working can make the difference between rival job offers, as well as encourage employees to remain longer in their roles.
  • Boosting diversity: It’s not only about making your company more attractive to families with children – employees in a wide range of situations want more flexible conditions, from 20-somethings just entering the workforce to older workers delaying retirement.
  • Enhanced engagement and productivity: It’s well-documented that happier staff are more engaged, resulting in higher productivity. This was borne out by a 2019 IWG survey of more than 15,000 professionals across 80 countries, in which 85% of respondents said flexible working made their business more productive.

    At Rullion, we introduced a formal remote working policy in October 2018, which means employees have greater autonomy over their start and finish times, as well as the opportunity to work remotely for up to two days at a time. It has already proven hugely successful – since we implemented the policy, employee satisfaction in this area has risen by 22%.

Introducing a flexible work policy

So, how do you implement a policy that works for your organisation?

1. Take a top-down approach
Buy-in from C-level down is essential. Executives and Managers should be involved in the development of your policy from the start, as well as leading the way in the adoption of flexible practices.

2. Incorporate flexibility as standard
Embed flexibility across company culture as the norm. It should be mentioned in job ads and routinely discussed from induction through to employee appraisals.

3. Be inclusive
As much as is practical, the same rules should apply to all, from front office staff to senior management. 

4. Keep the process simple
Create an easy, transparent process. Introduce guidelines so Managers and staff know what is expected.

5. Ensure tech is up to the task
Make sure all employees have a way to access the intranet via a secure VPN server. Even the most conscientious employee won’t be able to do their job remotely if they can’t access the information they need. Companies also need to ensure they have robust data privacy rules and safeguards.

6. Measure your success
Consider what benchmarks you will use, utilising tools such as employee satisfaction surveys and retention figures.

Whatever your company culture, these tips should give you some useful pointers for getting started. An effective policy needs to have a core set of rules that apply to everyone, but enough elasticity to be able to be adopted to suit individual circumstances. The rewards for getting the balance right are well worth it.