A recent report stated that 22 of the UK's biggest companies have signed a commitment to flexible working after finding that "agility" in staff hours and locations can cut workforce costs by as much as 13%.
Some of the companies taking part include B&Q, Ford, Ernst & Young, ITV and BT. Very impressive! Most employers offer some form of flexible working but unfortunately the process still has a bad reputation for benefitting employees and not employers. But this demonstrates that it can be a win-win situation.
If carried out properly, flexible working can be beneficial to employers and employees. For example, a working mother with a toddler may need to work flexible hours in order to drop off/collect her child from nursery. This benefits the employee as she is able to plan her working day with greater certainty with the confidence that her employer is aware of her working start and finish times. The employer also benefits from that certainty. Without that flexibility, she may be forced to leave her job (meaning that the employer loses talent and incurs costs in recruiting for a replacement). There is also a mutual exchange in each accommodating the other, which is also likely to increase staff commitment to an employer.
The cynics who believe that flexible working is just an excuse for employees to “slack off” should listen up. Flexible working is not just about working from home, it’s a way of working, flexibly, in a way which suits both an employee’s and an employer’s needs.
So does it really work?
KPMG said it saved £4.7m during the recession by offering flexible working hours to staff rather than making redundancies. Eversheds said 28% of staff reported increased productivity when it gave staff freedom over working models.
Clearly flexible working does work if implemented properly and employers are prepared to follow through with the process instead of just paying lip service to it. The top employers are in favour of it as it makes business sense. After all, a happy employee is a productive employee, and this report demonstrates that flexible working can also improve the bottom line.
The figures speak for themselves and as society changes, I hope to see a cultural shift so that flexible working becomes the norm.
If you are an employee who cares for someone (e.g. a dependent adult or a child), you have the legal right to request flexible working. If a request for flexible working is unreasonably refused, you may have a claim for sex and/or disability discrimination. Always seek legal advice before taking any action.