How to encourage the uptake of flexible working

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Woman working from a cafe with a coffee and phone in hand, taking advantage of the workplace's flexible working policy.

With fluid hours, working from home and general adaptability in the workplace on the rise, there’s no doubt that flexible working is well and truly part of modern business. Conditions like coming into the office late or leaving early to do the school run, unlimited holiday allowances and remote working are becoming increasingly stock standard in benefits packages and, when hiring, can often make the difference when candidates are choosing between jobs.

Recent research by Timewise found 63% of full-time employees work flexibly in some way, while 37% have no flexibility in their working lives.1 The same study found that the most common forms are flexible working hours (29%), working from home (26%) and favourable shift patterns (21%).

However, it’s one thing to offer flexible working and another to actually see it implemented. Research by Powwownow found that 58% of workers have the opportunity for flexible working but, of that, 24% don’t use it while 47% of full-time employees don’t have flexible working encouraged.2 To ensure you can retain the best talent, consider implementing these strategies into your operations.

Take a top-down approach
If the leadership team appear chained to their desks, their direct reports will follow by example. When managers and senior leaders are seen to be embracing company policy, employees will feel more comfortable taking advantage of working from home, taking their holiday or changing their hours to fit around family or personal commitments.

Consider the self-employed
15% of the UK’s population work for themselves – around 4.8 million people. These independent professionals are often specialists who can supply high-quality expertise in specific areas, as well as fulfilling additional staffing requirements as needed. By supplementing your workforce with these types of employees, it will be much easier to implement and maintain a cultural change – making flexible working the new norm.

Adapt to generational needs
As with any benefit, when it comes to flexible working, there isn’t a one-size fits all approach. Millennials and Gen Y-ers are most likely to work flexibly, with 92% of 18-34 year olds enjoying or wanting the option; while 88% of 35-54 year olds and 72% of those aged 55+ feel the same. Therefore, consider what would be of most benefit to each employee. For example, younger workers may be more interested in compressed hours so they have a three-day weekend, while those with families could appreciate reduced daily hours. By tailoring your offering to the needs of the employee, they are much more likely to take advantage.

Encourage passion projects
One way to improve employee wellbeing is to encourage the adoption of passion projects, side-hustles that inspire or engage the side of the brain your employees aren’t using day-to-day. Learning a new skill, such as a language or musical instrument, or starting a blog, photography course or new type of exercise could inspire new ideas that employees can bring to the workplace. Being open to accommodating these projects within the working week (with the reflected pay) could result in improved productivity and creativity while at the desk.

This piece is the second in the series: ‘Make your working life exceptional: a guide to creating a better workplace.’ Read part one about mental health here.

Author Tiger Contributor Tiger Recruitment Team

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