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Why business owners can’t ignore flexible working

Traditionally seen as a perk for carers and working parents, flexible working is now something that a large proportion of people want from a job. For many companies flexible working is a standard practice, with some corporations offering it as an employee perk. With employees crying out for flexible working it’s getting to a point where business owners simply can’t ignore it and here’s why!
Legislation
In July 2014, the UK Government introduced legislation stating that an employee who has been in a job for more than six months can apply to their employer for some form of flexible working arrangements. On first thought flexible working might seem without structure and hard to manage; however the bulk of businesses offering flexible working still impose some restrictions, such as office hours are from 7am until 7pm. This means employees must carry out their working hours during that timeframe but affords employees the opportunity to fit in their hours how ever they see fit, enabling early or late starts, and improving work-life balance.
While research from Sage shortly after the legislation was passed suggests two in five small businesses are ignoring it , there’s a plethora of reasons why this shouldn’t be the case. In fact, adopting a less regimented working system can result in better productivity and increased morale. It can also go some way in attracting and retaining the best talent.
Seasonal Flexibility
For some business owners who are either unable or unwilling to offer flexible working all-year round, permitting it during the summer months can prove to be a hit and beneficial for all involved. Last summer a British survey of 2,000 business employees and 200 business owners found that a quarter of UK businesses were allowing flexible working and permitting their employees to work from home; 48% of these business owners believed this flexibility boosted productivity .
Offering seasonal flexible working is also a good way to trial the system before coming to a decision over whether it is feasible in the long term.
Modernisation
As technology is advancing, we’re changing the devices we use and the way we operate, and that should extend to when and from where we operate. With most of the world online, it’s now possible to work from anywhere, at any time and from any Wi-Fi enabled device. The majority of workers are no longer needed to be tied down to their desk between the hours of 9am and 5pm; therefore without the necessity, it begs the question why do we do it?
Equality
Traditionally flexible working was reserved for parents needing to leave early or work from home for childcare purposes. However, business owners should now hope to create an environment which promotes equality, and as such the opportunity to ask for flexible working must (owing to legislation) be open to all employees and any such request can only be rejected due to a valid business reason. For many business owners flexible working is reserved for special circumstances and is often seen as a privilege, but once you dispel this idea you may begin to question why so much impetus is placed on coming into the office and whether it is strictly necessary.
Routine
While routine is important for many people, the right routine for one employee might differ from that of another. Therefore imposing a 9-5 working day might not be ideal. Individuals often work most effectively at different times of the day; for example one employee may find it easier to focus earlier in the day, whereas others may find their optimum working time is of an afternoon. Allowing your workforce a degree of flexibility to their work schedule permits them the opportunity to play to their strengths. It also promotes trust, as employees realise that managers have faith in them to do their job and work their allotted hours, but without clocking them in and out.
Unpredictability
Life is unpredictable and that can impact on work; with flexible working unpredictability has less of an effect on being able to do a job – enabling employees to go to doctor’s appointments, or come in late to avoid a traffic incident, yet still fulfilling their duties and contracted hours. This degree of freedom can mean a lot to employees in today’s busy society, but it doesn’t impact on their ability to do their job.
Finally, as already underlined, offering employees flexible working can have many benefits to the individual but also to the organisation. Once an organisation has the right policies and technology in place, there are few reasons why flexible working shouldn’t be an option. Additionally, as well as boosting productivity, there are also financial gains from permitting flexible working. Working from home can cut costs in the office, as it reduces the amount of electricity being used, for example; while the individual may make savings on the cost of transport to the office or petrol.
Ultimately business owners should be aware that there doesn’t appear to be any detrimental impacts of allowing their workforce to flexible working hours or working from home. If anything, productivity increases, costs are cut (after maybe initially spiking to ensure policies and tools are in place) and workforces are largely happier and more content in their jobs.
Author Bio
Will Bridges is an HR Consultant at Unum, one of the UK’s leading financial protection insurers. Unum specialise in providing Income Protection through the workplace, and are committed to helping the UK’s workforce get a back-up plan. Visit them online at: http://unum.co.uk

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