Flexible working is a great way for small businesses to attract and retain talent. The Government has recently introduced the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, which boosts existing employee rights to request flexible working arrangements. It’s anticipated that flexible working requests will be a day one right from 6 April 2024, with a host of other changes following in Summer 2024.
These changes include:
The Government has also confirmed that the right to request flexible working will become a day-one right.
So, now’s the time to start taking a good close look at your approach to flexible working – because it isn’t going away, and more and more top talent will expect a company to be clear about how it views and facilitates flexible working arrangements.
Whether you’re just diving into the world of flexible working or aiming to improve your existing approach, our HR experts are here to help. Let’s unravel some of the best flexible working tips to make sure your business strategy is clear, you meet your legal obligations, and your people feel supported at work.
Before diving in, it’s essential to pinpoint what you hope to gain from introducing or optimising flexible working in your business. Obviously, you have a legal obligation to respond appropriately to flexible working requests, so this question is a little contradictory – because you can’t choose to simply not offer employees flexible working at all.
You can refuse a request for one of the eight defined reasons – read more about how to manage flexible working requests in our blog.
It’s important to see the benefits of embracing flexible working, where possible, beyond your legal obligations. Are you aiming to boost employee morale, accommodate personal schedules and circumstances, or tap into a broader talent pool? Nailing down what flexible working could do for your business (and what it can’t) can steer your strategy.
For instance, a business might introduce a four-day workweek (while maintaining pay) to see if it brings higher productivity and improved work-life balance. Or you may want to support employee wellbeing and reduce presenteeism by giving employees more flexibility about where and what times they work.
So, if you’re feeling a tad lost on where to start, remember how to implement flexible working often begins with understanding your ‘why.’
Our flexible working tips focus on four key areas:
So, let’s explore each of them in lots more detail.
When you have a team spread over different locations or working varied hours, communication is more important than ever. Nothing leads to poor productivity, confusion, and disengagement like bad communication.
It’s important that, whether people are working remotely or adjusted hours, everyone is aware of that fact so that they know when they can contact colleagues or managers, and when they won’t be available.
Also, when it comes to coordinating projects, setting up meetings, or organising shifts and rotas, having robust communication tools helps to make sure everyone’s in sync. Platforms like Slack, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams can be great for real-time chats, video conferencing, and project management. And having shared calendars or scheduling apps can help colleagues keep tabs on each other’s availability. Remember, successful flexible working lies in connection and clarity.
And it’s not just about the tools you use – you should be really clear about the expectations and approach of the business when it comes to flexible working at all times so that employees know from the moment they start their role where the business stands. If employees think you’re being inconsistent in your approach or have misconceptions over the business’ approach to flexible working, it could spiral into things like grievances – which you could probably do without!
A thriving flexible working environment is underpinned by a culture of trust, understanding, and mutual respect. It’s important for everyone in the business to understand that each employee’s ideal work setup might differ.
For example, incentives you may offer to everyone as a company may not suit all employees. Say you give everyone a late start on a Friday as what you think will be a well-received perk, but someone who has childcare responsibilities and who could benefit from finishing early might not see it the same way. Company-wide initiatives should be well thought out and ideally developed with the input of staff.
Of course, employees can put in their own individual flexible working requests, too. While one might benefit from early morning shifts, another might need to work later in order to fit in their childcaring responsibilities. It’s important to be receptive to these individual needs and make sure you consider each request carefully. Encourage open dialogues where employees can voice their preferences or concerns.
However, while it’s great to accommodate employee requests as much as possible, it’s equally important to understand that not all requests will work for your business. Balancing business needs with employee desires can be a bit tricky, but with clear communication, it’s entirely doable.
Consistency is key. Ensure everyone—from senior management to junior roles—understands and is aligned with your flexible working policy.
Are there specific days when everyone should be in the office? Are there core hours during which all team members should be available? Making sure all your documents – like your policies and handbooks – reflect your stance as a company is really important.
If you’re unsure about drafting one, don’t worry. We can do that kind of thing for you, so you can get a tailor-made flexible working policy that ticks all the right boxes, or get the right wording inserted into your employee handbook. Simply fill out the form on this page to chat with us about how we can support your business.
A common misconception about productivity is that it’s all about the hours clocked in. Instead, a more modern, results-oriented approach is to focus on tasks and outcomes.
What needs to be done by the end of the day? What needs to be completed by the end of the week? This shift allows employees to manage their time effectively without the stress of watching the clock, which can help if they’re on adjusted hours. It’s about things getting done correctly and on time, not how long was spent doing it.
Flexible working is more than a trend—it’s here to stay, and it’s one of the key ways businesses should expect to operate going forward, bringing benefits to both them and their teams.
Whether you need advice on best practice HR processes, assistance in crafting a flexible working policy, or advice on contracts or tricky employee issues, Citation is here to support you.
Dive into our blog on the benefits of flexible working or explore our flexible working responsibilities guide for more information on flexible working. Or, if you’d like more help, contact us by filling out the form on this page to chat about our 24/7 HR support used by over 50,000 small businesses across the UK and see how we can take the hassle out of HR for your business.
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