Don’t make flexible working as changeable as the weather

flexible working, working from home

Article provided by Aliya Vigor-Robertson, co-founder at JourneyHR

With the sudden heatwave in the UK breaking records and causing issues with commuting, it’s no surprise that businesses are reviewing their flexible working practices in order to maintain productivity while allowing staff to feel comfortable.

However, it’s important that these practices aren’t just for show and actually make the business a more effective place to work.

The lay of the land

The legal obligation is that all employees have the right to request flexible working – not just parents and caregivers. However, employees must have worked at the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible and may only make one request in a 12-month period.

Employees need to be aware that opting for flexible working will have an impact on their contractual rights. Changing their working pattern could lead to a shift in the number of hours they work or the amount of annual leave days they’re entitled to. Depending on the role, it may be almost impossible to work flexibly, but this may be overcome through job sharing or other alternative arrangements.

Interestingly, what we’re finding is that a number of employers are proactively encouraging people to ‘work smart’, irrespective of whether people have formally requested to work flexibly or not.  This is a welcome shift and we have seen how far these efforts have gone towards building trust and engagement between employees and the business.

Feeling hot, hot, hot

With the extremely hot weather hitting the UK recently, many employers may be tempted to jump on the bandwagon and suggest a temporary flexible working pattern for their staff in an attempt to be supportive and provide the best possible working conditions. The types of flexible working offered here may be far reaching and varied, from altering people’s commuting times to avoid rush hour, shortening the working day in the office, to suggesting a cooler location from which to work, right through to staying at home in front of a fan! The important point to remember is that offering flexibility shouldn’t be a passing trend – there needs to be a practical advantage to be gained for your team and clients alike. Crucially, consideration should be given to how flexible working will affect the team from an efficiency and also communication perspective.

Tooling up

Providing practical, clear guidelines as to how flexible working rolls out in day to day life will allow your team to fully understand how to request a flexible pattern that works for them and for the business.  Employers also need to make sure they have the right tools in place. IT needs to be up to scratch, for example, so that employees can log on at different times of the day without disruption. Simple practices like ensuring that office phones having a redirect function to people’s smartphones will also help to make flexible working a success.

Leading from the top

There are many ways to introduce more flexibility into a business. Some companies may offer remote working, for example, while others promote a four-day working week. The one consistent factor that is needed to make these benefits work, however, is ensuring that those in senior roles lead by example.

If leaders don’t model this way of working, their employees won’t either. Even if they really want to work flexibly, staff won’t want to rock the boat if they think it might hold them back or it be viewed unfavourably by senior management.

As such, it’s important that managers who are receiving flexible working requests are supporting this way of working and even trying it out for themselves. If everyone in the business is open to the idea, and has the ability to work flexibly without it disrupting operations, the advantages for the organisation can be substantial.

Aliya Vigor-RobertsonAbout the author

Aliya started her HR career in 1996 and co-founded JourneyHR in 2010. Aliya has predominantly worked in the communications industry reporting in at board level at Aegis Media, Naked Communications, Media Planning Group and lastminute.com. She applies commercial focus and business psychology to HR and continues to influence business owners in the marketing and communications industry on innovative people practices.

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