Part time roles of one sort or another have been around in the workplace for many years, and the pros and cons of flexible working for employers are many and great. However, in the past, flexible working has tended to come in the form of part-time work or job shares, largely reserved for working parents, often in quite junior positions, needing fewer hours to work around the school day. Yet Covid has forced so many people in all different disciplines to adopt remote working, bringing about considerable flexible working business advantages and disadvantages for employers, as we will explore in this article.
And actually, there’s a question over whether the advantages and disadvantages of flexible working for business really matter, because all UK employees have the legal right to request flexible working from 26 weeks of employment and in September 2021, the Government announced that it is proposing to give all employees the right to request flexible working when they start new jobs. So, the pros and cons of flexible working for businesses are really pretty irrelevant – if you’re an employer, you do really need to adopt flexible working long-term because employees have the right to request it.
However, this article is all about the flexible working business advantages and disadvantages for employers, which we’ve listed below. It’s helpful to explain what we mean by flexible working, and really the term relates to anything outside of the previous ‘norm’ of the 9-5, and that tends to be remote working, hybrid, blended or agile working (a bit of remote / a bit in the office), compressed hours, staggered hours, nine-day fortnight, part time work and jobs shares. And since there are both benefits and drawbacks of flexible working for employers and the law says you need to embrace it, we think it’s best to focus largely on the pros … because actually, by good leadership and a strong culture of inclusion they pretty much outweigh the cons. So, without further ado, here are the common pros and cons of flexible working:
There really are many pros of flexible working for businesses if leaders do things well. However, poor leadership and a lack of clarity can make flexible working hours benefits somewhat illusive and that can be very bad for business.
So here are some of the advantages of flexible working for employers:
This is right at the top of our list of advantages of flexible working hours for businesses because let’s face it, you want your business to be successful and grow, right? So how does something like remote working drive increased productivity? Simple – flexible working hours benefits employees so much that, done well, they really appreciate it and want to do a good job for you – hurrah! Which leads me nicely on to number two in our pros of flexible working hours…
The flexible working hours pros for employees, are that they feel purpose in what they do – because you’re doing such a great job of empowering them and trusting them to do good work, and above all communicating really well with them (that point is key) – the benefits of flexible working hours for employers is huge, because having a happy and satisfied workforce will increase their productivity, result in fewer sick days and that’s just a really good thing for everyone.
This is really very aligned with Employee Satisfaction because flexible working hours benefits and improves employee motivation, when there’s good engagement and communication, trust and empowerment, and all of this in turn leads to, guess what? Yes, that’s right, the advantages of flexible working hours for employers brings about satisfaction, motivation and leads to … increased productivity, yay! Seriously though, can you see how this article is somewhat skewed towards the flexible working hours benefits? That’s because your workforce are your people, your greatest asset, and flexible working hours pros are so great for employees and employers alike, that we want to encourage you as an employer to lead in a way that makes employees feel, well, happy – and in so doing, they’ll do a great job for you!
Flexible working hours benefits employees who often feel less stressed when they are treated fairly, feel valued, trusted and empowered by their leader and perhaps have a better work/life balance. So, the advantages of flexible working for employers can mean enhanced employee wellbeing, and happy staff who feel valued, supported, aren’t overloaded with work and are therefore not susceptible to stress, tend to be less likely to go off sick. Of course, it’s important that there is good, strong leadership, processes and communication in place.
With employees working remotely, the advantages of flexible working hours for employers can include increased efficiency, as there may be less office space needed and less electricity being used. Perhaps the pros of flexible working business might include downsizing the office space or moving to a less expensive location. Whilst these are great flexible working hours benefits, it’s wise to consider whether you still need the same amount of space, just reconfigured with say more collaborative or creative spaces for those times when people are in.
You might still need the space, but perhaps need to use it differently. Also, by employing individuals on a part time basis, flexible working hours benefits employers, because they can often recruit senior, experienced individuals, working fewer hours, therefore costing the company much less than if they were to employ them on a full-time salary.
If you don’t need employees to actually work in the office, the benefits of flexible working for employers can extend to you attracting great talent from further afield. This is particularly beneficial if your office is located out of town, as work from home benefits younger people who perhaps want to be where the life is, and having to commute to a business park in the middle of nowhere may be less than appealing. So, the advantages of flexible working hours can mean you get great talent, perhaps a more diverse age range and your employees can continue living in the heart of the action if they so wish.
OK, so we’ve seen that there are many pros but what of the flexible working business disadvantages?
Surely there’s something to counteract the flexible working hours benefits? You may be worrying about the productivity of employees? Maybe you’re worried that employees will take liberties and use their work hours for personal activities? How do you keep tabs on individuals? There’s no doubt that without strong leadership and a clear strategy, there can be a negative impact of flexible working hours on productivity. So, here are some of the things you might want to look out for and guard against:
With people working remotely without good communication, there can absolutely be a negative impact of flexible working hours on productivity. Communication really is key, and there’s no doubt it’s challenging.
You might have a number of different individuals in different teams, in different locations and working different hours – and as we found out in the previous section about the benefits of flexible working, good communication is vital to generate a positive impact of flexible working hours on productivity. It doesn’t require investment in expensive communications systems, it just needs to be focussed on and implemented well. And that simply means staying in touch, in whatever way works best – maybe using online systems like Teams and Zoom, or by picking up the phone – regularly. Staying in touch doesn’t need to be complicated, just make it a priority for your business and make sure everyone feels happy, involved, trusted and valued, that they are on track with tasks and not feeling overwhelmed by the workload.
This is one of the commonly observed disadvantages of flexible working business. It can be challenging to bring people together for meetings when individuals are working different schedules and in different locations. So, for the impact of flexible working hours on productivity to be positive, you may need to do a fair amount of diary juggling. However, if you’re doing a good enough job of engaging with and motivating your staff, they will want prioritise meetings and gatherings. So, good leadership again can maximise the work productivity among employees and ensure a happy and motivated team.
When employees are working from home, they are susceptible to personal distractions, like doing the washing, walking the dog, cooking meals and looking after young children. One way we recommend you create a positive impact of flexible working hours on productivity, is to use leadership strategies of trust and empowerment – with good communication thrown in of course! There are always going to be personal distractions when people are working in a home environment, it’s just a fact.
But by allowing employees, and indeed encouraging them, to schedule their day in a way that works best for them, instead of keeping to the rigid 9-5, you will find the impact of flexible working hours on productivity is largely positive. The trick is to change your mindset from ‘visibility’ to ‘delivery’ – at the end of the day we just want our employees to do their work, so how they do it and the hours they choose, should really be up to them. And by showing you trust them and empowering them to schedule their day in a way that works for them, you will undoubtedly boost satisfaction.
It is important that people have the right ‘kit’, to promote a positive impact of flexible working hours on productivity, and this may require a bit of expenditure by your business initially. By ‘kit’ we don’t mean anything fancy, just the fundamentals like a proper desk at the right height which a chair can fit under, a keyboard and monitor at the correct height and maybe a footrest. You might need to provide employees with a laptop stand and separate keyboard and mouse. If users are uncomfortable at their desk, this can really affect productivity, not to mention a detrimental impact on their physical health, and you really must avoid causing injury to employees at all costs.
Because flexibility can simply mean working flexible hours (i.e., it doesn’t necessarily mean working remotely), there aren’t really any circumstances when a role couldn’t be flexible. If the role needs to be full time for example, people can job share. However, there may be times when individuals are not suited to remote working, and this can be one of the disadvantages of flexible working for employers. This may result in a detrimental impact of flexible working hours on productivity.
Individuals who are introverts for example, prefer not to be around others and may want to keep their camera switched off in Zoom meetings, which can affect team spirit. Also, individuals who are energised by being around others can find remote working quite isolating and detrimental to their mental health. These are common disadvantages of flexible working for employers, and being aware of this, and empathetic to different individuals’ needs is vital. It is challenging to ensure all needs are met but it is vital to do everything you can to achieve this.
With individuals working different hours and a blend of remote and in-office locations, it becomes challenging to maintain team spirit. It takes a real change in mindset to ensure the impact of flexible working hours on productivity is positive, and that can mean re-thinking office space and creating reasons to get together from time to time. Maybe it’s for team building activities, like a strategy day or doing some good work in the community? Perhaps it’s about celebrating a win, someone’s birthday or some other exciting news. Or it could be simply getting together for a barbecue, or for drinks after work. But to ensure the productivity remains good, it’s important to focus on building team spirit, and creating reasons to bring people together to celebrate, collaborate or get creative.
OK, so hopefully you’ve found our flexible working business advantages and disadvantages for employers helpful. There may be something in here we’ve not mentioned so do get in touch and tell us what you find challenging or a little nugget of information that has really helped you make the impact of flexible working hours on productivity positive – we’d love to hear from you!
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