Flexible Working – Will It Be the Norm within a Few Years?

3rd May 2016

Working flexibly will soon be the norm for British businesses, according to a new report. Small businesses have shown the way forward for flexibility, so it is essential for them to have SME payroll software which makes it easy to keep track of hours being worked. Larger companies and organisations also need an adaptable payroll solution which will allow them to easily calculate the correct rates for staff who may be working different hours from one week to the next.

The new survey, carried out by Lancaster University’s Work Foundation, suggested that by 2017 there may be a greater number of “flexi-workers” than those doing standard office hours. It is forecast in the report that during 2017 more than half of organisations will offer flexible arrangements, and this could rise to over 70% by the end of the decade.

Why Is Flexible Working Popular with Both Employees and Employers?

The law has changed in last couple of years, so that it is no longer only parents and carers who have the right to request flexible working. Other staff now also have the right to make this request, and companies have to consider it in a “reasonable” manner. Employers can refuse a change in hours, but only if there is a genuine business reason for doing so.

Many different types of working arrangement can come under the heading of “flexible”. This includes part-time working, a contract to work in term-time only and take school holidays off, working from home, arranging a job share and various other ways of changing standard hours to suit the individual.

The most obvious advantage of this type of arrangement for employees is the fact that they can combine work with home responsibilities. However, there are also other reasons why people prefer flexi-working, such as being able to do a course or training, avoiding travel at peak times, or working shorter hours in the run-up to retirement.

As well as being popular with many employees, flexible working arrangements have advantages from an employer’s point of view. There is evidence that flexible working can lead to greater engagement and productivity, with the better work-life balance boosting staff performance.

Many small companies have shown the way forward on flexible working, with one survey showing that 80% of SMEs already support the idea. Where companies can be flexible over hours worked, this can help SMEs to compete for talent with larger employers. Being willing to change shift patterns to suit an individual can contribute to staff loyalty, making it more likely that employees will stay with you rather than moving to a larger rival.

What Are the Possible Drawbacks?

Flexible working will not be appropriate under all circumstances. If there is a key member of staff who you rely on, perhaps in a skill shortage area, it might be hard to cut their hours. It could also be difficult to make a workable arrangement if you are already short-staffed.

There could be a danger that flexible arrangements for some staff members may lead to others still working traditional office hours feeling overstretched. This can be especially difficult for small companies, where losing just one member of staff part-time amounts to a larger percentage of resources.

It could also cause problems for a company if staff members want to work shorter hours just when you have major projects on, so there needs to be some give and take and mutual understanding. Communicating effectively with staff who are based outside the office all or part of the time, to ensure they are on board with your current company objectives, can also be difficult.

Managing Flexible Working Effectively

Careful planning is key to ensuring flexible working arrangements go smoothly. In terms of resources, you will need to think ahead to ensure you have enough cover and that staffing is not spread too thinly at busy times. You also need to make sure staff working a variety of shifts do not end up missing out on key briefings.

Good communication routes are also essential. It can be easy to overlook the need for regular contact with staff, either by hosting regular meetings or via video conferencing. Using technology to the full can help here, for instance by ensuring that staff out of the office are set up with efficient equipment, including laptops and smartphones with suitable apps.

Using appropriate payroll and HR systems is very helpful in keeping track of flexible arrangements. For example, IRIS FMP Amity is geared to mobile use. Whether you run a large company or an SME, Amity payroll software can help to implement differing work patterns. Teamspirit is also an ideal choice for flexible working within larger businesses, since it fully integrates HR and payroll and makes it easy to set up individual time and attendance profiles.

HR self-service software makes flexi-working much easier to organise. It enables staff to see their own shift details and enter timesheets and requests for time off and holidays, as well as accessing other information. It also enables managers to sign off holiday requests, overtime and expenses in a timely manner and look at employees’ individual calendars. IRIS FMP Teamspirit and Amity both have self-service functionality.

For more details of how flexible working could help your company, contact our team.