HR & Management

How companies can effectively establish flexible working policies

4 min read

04 July 2018

Four years since flexible working regulations were introduced, research from the Smarter Working Initiative reveals three quarters of UK employees now consider the option as crucial when selecting a new role.

This figure alone represents a significant shift in attitudes towards the importance of flexible working. But have employers’ attitudes changed in line with their workers’? And, crucially, how can employers create a flexible working policy that works for both the business and its employees?

Rapidly shifting employee attitudes

The popularity of flexible working has largely been driven by employees themselves, with office workers placing an increasingly higher value on a healthier work-life balance. Looking back to just three years ago, 78% of UK employees had never considered working from home.

Opinions shifted rapidly within the 12 months that followed, with over half wishing they were offered the choice by 2016.

The option to work flexibly has become almost as popular as other, more traditional, workplace benefits such as pay rises, with almost a third of UK employees indicating they would prefer the option to work flexibly over a pay rise in 2018. This is indicative of a time-strapped workforce who recognise the value of their time over monetary bonuses.

Employers begin to embrace flexibility

Employee’s attitudes aren’t the only ones changing. Since the introduction of the regulation in 2014, progressive employers have embraced agile working by proactively implementing flexible working policies.

However, it is clear that more still needs to be done. Recent research revealed 42% of employees feel flexible working isn’t encouraged at their place of work. With flexible working becoming essential for the majority of employees, businesses who want to attract, and retain, the best talent need to recognise the importance of creating an open fluid work environment for staff.

As the traditional nine to five working structure continues its demise, employers need to ensure that their current policies on working hours don’t encourage a culture of presenteeism. Flexible working can also increase cross-team collaboration and reduce business overheads.

Enabling flexible working

While there is a clear business case to be made for introducing flexible working, there will be some who remain hesitant, convinced that it will be a long and arduous process. However, there are only two key requirements for rolling out successful flexible working across a company – trust and technology.

In terms of technology, companies have two main options. The first – allow staff to bring their own devices and ensure they have all the required tools to complete tasks successfully. Alternatively, they can provide staff with the physical hardware such as laptops and tablets which already have all the necessary tools needed for flexible working.

The second element, trust, is more challenging to establish, but crucial to an effective flexible working policy. Employees must feel like they are trusted to do their job but also that there are procedures in place to help them get the most out of working remotely.

Leaders can create structure by introducing a formalised flexible working policy and training managers in how best to manage teams working remotely.

Through combining trust and the latest technological tools, companies can effectively establish flexible working policies and start to reap the many business benefits that flexible working can offer and promote a better work life balance amongst employees.

Jason Downes is founder of the Smarter Working Initiative