Flexible working: your options

Posted on Feb 5 2015 - 1:53pm by John Peters
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Bostjan Bregar outlines the different flexible working arrangements being adopted by businesses and their benefits

The reality is that elements of flexible working are probably already happening in your business

The reality is that elements of flexible working are probably already happening in your business

Recently introduced Government legislation permits any UK employee with more than 26 weeks’ service to make an application for flexible working, and requires businesses to consider these requests in a ‘reasonable manner’.

In an attempt to remove the cultural assumption that flexible working only applies to parents or carers, the Government believes the change to the law will make workplaces fit for the 21st century and create a more engaged, agile, results-driven and productive workforce. So, what exactly is ‘flexible working’ and how could it change what your employees do day-in and day-out?

The reality is that elements of flexible working are probably already happening in your business, if you’re the kind of person who checks your emails on your phone when you’re out and about, or does a bit of work on the train in preparation for a meeting, or if you’ve let an employee leave early for a personal appointment. These are all examples of flexible working in action.

Flexible working arrangements typically fall into one of the following categories.

Job sharing:

The dividing up of one job between two or more people, with the hours split between them. The apportioning of hours does not need to be equal.

Flexible places of work:

In the digital age, Wi-Fi, cloud storage and other technologies enable employees to do some or all of their work from home or somewhere else other than their normal place of work.

Part-time:

Allowing individuals to reduce their hours to less than full-time, whether by working shorter days or fewer days.

Compressed hours:

Unlike part-time working, this involves the same number of hours as a full-time role but spread across fewer days, so an individual may work four longer days each week, for example.

Flexi-time:

Many companies will establish core business hours (e.g. 10am to 4pm) but allow individuals to set their own start and finish times to fit in with other commitments. This may result in some shorter and some longer days, but over the course of the working week each individual should do their contracted hours in full.

Annualised hours:

An extension of the Flexi-time principle that can work well for roles or businesses that have a high degree of seasonality. Individuals can be contracted to work a certain number of hours over the course of the year, with flexibility on when they work to accommodate peaks and troughs in business activity.

Staggered hours:

Each employee can set different start, finish and break times. Such arrangements can be of benefit to businesses that want to extend opening times without increasing total hours worked by staff.

Phased retirement:

Now that the default retirement age has been phased out and older workers can choose when they want to retire, individuals can gradually reduce the number of hours they work to part-time over a given period. This eases pressure on them personally and allows a transitional handover period that will help the business prepare for their eventual full retirement.

On the surface, the combination of flexible options and alterations to the law may seem daunting, but the rewards of flexible working can be hugely beneficial to your business and your team.

Often, taking the first step is the most difficult part, but by planning and implementing a company-wide flexible working policy and supporting teams with the right technology, you can create an organisational culture of always putting customers and staff first and give yourself a competitive advantage as a truly agile business.

Bostjan Bregar is co-founder and CEO of The 4th Office, a structured cloud workspace with intuitive collaboration, file sharing and task management tools that enable teams to work together efficiently, whether they’re in the same room or on the other side of the world.

Established 10 years ago, The 4th Office embraces the principles of agility and flexibility in its own operations. It is based in Slovenia and the UK and expands and shrinks resources and skill-sets as required through a combination of full-time employees, freelancers and partners. For further information on The 4th Office’s agile workspace or a free trial for your business, go to www.4thoffice.com

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