What is flexible working?

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Everything you need to know about flexible working: what it is, how it can benefit you, and the best tips to make it a success

Flexible working is by no means a new phenomenon – businesses and freelancers have been experimenting with when and where they work for many years now. But there was little sign of flexi working challenging the 9-to-5 status quo until the pandemic forced a sudden and widespread adoption of remote working, hybrid working, and other arrangements. Due to this rapid change, many of us still have misconceptions about flexible working.

So, whether you’re an employer, employee, or freelancer transitioning to virtual work, our comprehensive guide to flexible working will answer all your questions, giving you the info you need to make the best decision for your business or career.

Table of Contents

Six types of flexible working

Firstly, what is flexible working?

Flexible working refers to a range of alternative ways of working, compared to traditional office and 9-5 full-time work arrangements.

It’s beneficial for employers and employees to understand the nuances of these options, so they can come to a mutual working agreement that will benefit both. Below, we’ve listed the most popular flexible working policies on offer today. In some instances, a combination of these can be applied to an employee’s contract.

Hybrid working

Hybrid working is one of the more common flexible working policies that employers offer. Hybrid working involves a mix of working from the office and working from home through the week. How the days are split differs across businesses and employees so, if you plan to implement a hybrid working policy, you’ll need to ensure both sides understand what’s expected of a new employee before they start.

Flexi time

A popular choice for those with a difficult commute or time-sensitive commitments, flexi time allows you to shift your start and finish times. If you want to avoid the rush hour and head to the office late, or leave early to pick up the children from school, flexi time may work for you.

Compressed hours

This allows employees to work the same number of hours each week (e.g. 35), but pack them into fewer days. A good option for those who want to keep a full-time salary but need more personal time.

Part-time hours

Part-time hours mean working fewer hours in the week, compared to a full-time job. Salaries will be adjusted accordingly, which is called pro rata. For example, someone who earns a £50,000 pro rata salary working three days a week will earn £30,000 before tax.

Remote working

Working fully remotely became familiar to many of us during the COVID-19 pandemic, and some employees found it their ideal arrangement. While this is a less common option today, it remains a popular working style for those who live further away from their employer’s office location. Some businesses also exist without a physical working address at all; instead, they employ people remotely, sometimes from around the world.

Job share

A job share involves multiple colleagues (usually two) sharing a single role and splitting it across a working week. This requires a lot of coordination and a positive dynamic between the colleagues.

Benefits of flexible working

So far this sounds like a no-brainer for employees, but what’s in it for employers?

Flexible working arrangements are not without their challenges, but when managers and teams make the right preparations, it can deliver a multitude of business and personal benefits. Let’s look at these in more detail.

Employers’ benefits

For more benefits, read our blog on the reasons to adopt a flexible working policy

Employees’ benefits

Find out if remote working is for you by reading more of the benefits and challenges of home working.

Remote work tools

If you’re wondering how you could possibly replace an office with a sofa, kitchen table, or café, you’re not alone. The transition to remote working can be daunting. Luckily, a whole industry has emerged to cater for remote workers.

Nearly every aspect of office life can be replicated with clever apps, websites, hardware, furniture, and thoughtful planning of your home workspace and routine. Making the best of remote work tools and techniques can provide a big boost to the effectiveness of remote working teams.

Employers should research and invest in these tools and techniques to maximise the productivity of their remote-working staff. We’ve made a list of our favourite apps and tips in our guide to managing remote teams.

For those who need a break from the home, there are many co-working spaces that offer both the focused and social side of an office.

How to hire and train remote staff

Some of the biggest challenges in a flexible working environment include hiring and training staff, not to mention creating a strong team camaraderie. However, there are tried and tested ways to onboard new staff remotely and make them feel every bit a part of the team as those working from the office.

Firstly, all your training materials should be accessible online, and the new starter should be provided with hardware capable of video calls.

But, equally important is the social side.

Efforts must be made to bring a new remote team member into the fold, and businesses are using a variety of methods to achieve this. These include assigning new starters a ‘work buddy’ who will take them under their wing, arranging online team-building exercises like Zoom quizzes, and regular 1-to-1 check-ins to ensure the new starter feels comfortable.

There are many more parts of the process to consider for remote workers, so read our full guide to onboarding staff remotely for up-to-date expert advice.

Flexible working and mental health

One of the most common reasons for employees to request flexible working stems from a desire to improve their work-life balance and mental health. In the wake of the pandemic, this is at the front of many jobseeker’s minds when considering a new position, so HR and hiring managers should pay attention.

Studies have shown that the positive knock-on effects of offering flexible working include:

However, it was also found during the pandemic that the isolation of working from home can cause its own mental health problems. Lack of socialising with the team, alongside a lack of guidance or support from managers can have a negative effect on some employees.

Therefore, if an employee for any reason is unable to work from the office, special efforts should be made to mitigate any potential feelings of isolation or stress. Many lessons on how to tackle this were learned during the pandemic, and you can gain further insights on these through our webinar on improving employees’ mental health remotely.

There’s no doubt that flexible working is here to stay. Employees have made their wishes very clear, and many businesses now see the flexi-working model for the huge opportunity it is.

Whether you want to scale down some long-unused office space, create a happier and more engaged company culture, or have some feet on the ground in a new territory, allowing employees more say where and when they work has many proven business advantages.

For employees and jobseekers, breaking up your weeks between office and remote work ensures you develop both your collaborative team skills and resourcefulness in a solo setting.

It’s certainly not the end of office life, but – for both employees and employers – flexible working is a very welcome evolution in the world of work.

Our consultants are experts in flexible working and can advise on how to use your policies to best attract top candidates. Get in touch with your requirements today to set up a consultation.

Author David Morel Tiger Recruitment Team

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