Why research suggests you should formalise your Flexible Working Policies and Systems

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Flexible working is seen to enable more people to enter paid employment and balance their job with other responsibilities that sit outside work. New UK legislation is bringing forward the right for every employee to ask for a Flexible Working Arrangement from day one of their employment.  

Since Covid a new dimension has been embedded into the flexible working discussion and that is hybrid working, so organisations now must deal not only with when it is reasonable to ask employees to work but also where. Surveys show that most employees would prefer to work from home at least some of the time. Only one fifth favour full time office working.  

Of course, the typical office environment develops a core consensus on working hours and times when people naturally arrive for work and set off at the end of the day for the commute home. It is usually by exception that we see office-based employees “burning the midnight oil” at their desks. But at home a fragmented working day that has employees working at times that fit around their life and personal working preferences is becoming more common.  

Flexible and hybrid working are seen by many job seekers as selection criteria in their job selection process but by no means all have the same criteria. For some, office working is attractive, if it enables other valuable social interactions or their home working conditions are unsuitable, they are pleased to come to an office. For others a commute is just a waste of time and life can be managed much more easily if home is also the office, managing the school run, 90 minutes for the gym at lunchtime and being there for the daily parcel deliveries are seen as real advantages. But preferences can change throughout a career as personal circumstances change and sometimes very rapidly. 

Talent acquisition specialists are clear that offering flexible working is one of the components of the offer to attract and retain the best people but as we have discussed, it is a more complex and variable negotiation than for example, remuneration, benefits and holidays. 

So, what is happening in the marketplace? It all seems to be a bit haphazard. Organisations are entering into bespoke arrangements per employee, often discretionary, informal and situational, this can lead to problems. Organisations have been trying to standardise their offers and contracts for years as they know how difficult it is to manage when there are multiple individual arrangements in place. Flexible working runs the risk of creating more differentiation between employees and importantly, the differences are very visible to colleagues leading to difficult conversations and potential grievances. 

According to recent research* Flexible working arrangements do enhance social exchange which is a form of reciprocal behaviours, leading to greater discretionary effort and loyalty. However, it also shows that loyalty can be more focussed on the individual management arrangement rather that the organisation. More widely implemented and accessible flexible working arrangements tend to lead to more organisational loyalty and therefore potentially longer and more stable interactions between the employer and employee. 

So how to balance the need for flexibility, without incurring the some of the downsides? The answer is the implementation of the right training for managers, policies, business rules, and the systems to record and manage flexibility. It isn’t about reducing flexibility but about having a well-managed and equitable solution for all. 

Flexitime systems are not new but are now more relevant than ever. Simple concepts like core hours, can bring a level of stability and equality across an organisation which helps to optimise the mix of individual contribution and team dynamics. Having visibility of flexible entitlements, accrued time, absenteeism and working patterns are important tools for managers to be able to maximise productivity at the same time as managing fairness and welfare across their teams. Systems are now even more of a requirement in a hybrid world where daily “line of site management” is no longer possible. 

Implementing Flexible working systems is straightforward as they can be cloud-based, integrate with current HR and payroll systems and the time recording can take place anywhere from existing access control systems, biometrics, smart devices, laptop, or when the employee enters the carpark. 

The data generated from flexible working systems is invaluable for organisations looking to manage resources, understand employee behaviours, to manage facilities and to work towards net zero goals as well as meeting legislative obligations.  

Flexible working is seen to enable more people to enter paid employment and balance their job with other responsibilities that sit outside work. New UK legislation is bringing forward the right for every employee to ask for a Flexible Working Arrangement from day one of their employment.  

 

Since Covid a new dimension has been embedded into the flexible working discussion and that is hybrid working, so organisations now must deal not only with when it is reasonable to ask employees to work but also where. Surveys show that most employees would prefer to work from home at least some of the time. Only one fifth favour full time office working.  

 

Of course, the typical office environment develops a core consensus on working hours and times when people naturally arrive for work and set off at the end of the day for the commute home. It is usually by exception that we see office-based employees “burning the midnight oil” at their desks. But at home a fragmented working day that has employees working at times that fit around their life and personal working preferences is becoming more common.  

 

Flexible and hybrid working are seen by many job seekers as selection criteria in their job selection process but by no means all have the same criteria. For some, office working is attractive, if it enables other valuable social interactions or their home working conditions are unsuitable, they are pleased to come to an office. For others a commute is just a waste of time and life can be managed much more easily if home is also the office, managing the school run, 90 minutes for the gym at lunchtime and being there for the daily parcel deliveries are seen as real advantages. But preferences can change throughout a career as personal circumstances change and sometimes very rapidly. 

 

Talent acquisition specialists are clear that offering flexible working is one of the components of the offer to attract and retain the best people but as we have discussed, it is a more complex and variable negotiation than for example, remuneration, benefits and holidays. 

 

So, what is happening in the marketplace? It all seems to be a bit haphazard. Organisations are entering into bespoke arrangements per employee, often discretionary, informal and situational, this can lead to problems. Organisations have been trying to standardise their offers and contracts for years as they know how difficult it is to manage when there are multiple individual arrangements in place. Flexible working runs the risk of creating more differentiation between employees and importantly, the differences are very visible to colleagues leading to difficult conversations and potential grievances. 

 

According to recent research* Flexible working arrangements do enhance social exchange which is a form of reciprocal behaviours, leading to greater discretionary effort and loyalty. However, it also shows that loyalty can be more focussed on the individual management arrangement rather that the organisation. More widely implemented and accessible flexible working arrangements tend to lead to more organisational loyalty and therefore potentially longer and more stable interactions between the employer and employee. 

So how to balance the need for flexibility, without incurring the some of the downsides? The answer is the implementation of the right training for managers, policies, business rules, and the systems to record and manage flexibility. It isn’t about reducing flexibility but about having a well-managed and equitable solution for all. 

 

Flexitime systems are not new but are now more relevant than ever. Simple concepts like core hours, can bring a level of stability and equality across an organisation which helps to optimise the mix of individual contribution and team dynamics. Having visibility of flexible entitlements, accrued time, absenteeism and working patterns are important tools for managers to be able to maximise productivity at the same time as managing fairness and welfare across their teams. Systems are now even more of a requirement in a hybrid world where daily “line of site management” is no longer possible. 

 

Implementing Flexible working systems is straightforward as they can be cloud-based, integrate with current HR and payroll systems and the time recording can take place anywhere from existing access control systems, biometrics, smart devices, laptop, or when the employee enters the carpark. 

 

The data generated from flexible working systems is invaluable for organisations looking to manage resources, understand employee behaviours, to manage facilities and to work towards net zero goals as well as meeting legislative obligations.