Since the pandemic, the spotlight has shone firmly on alternative ways of working, be that hybrid, remote, compressed hours and the like, so we thought it might be helpful pull together the pros and cons of flexible working for employees.
Firstly though, before we get into the pros and cons of flexible working for employees let’s explore what flexible working is, so we fully understand the terminology.
Essentially though, flexible working is defined as a working practice which meets an employee’s needs, by perhaps giving flexibility to working hours, or the location of work i.e., working from home vs in the office. The flexible working advantages and disadvantages should be carefully considered by employees, as they can potentially impact home life and personal life.
There are a number of different ways of working flexibly, and individuals may find the flexible working advantages and disadvantages vary according to which they choose or what their employer offers.
Before we get into the pros and cons of flexible working for employees, it is useful to consider the most common practices, which are part-time working, term-time working, job-sharing, flexitime (employee chooses working hours, within set parameters), compressed hours (reallocation of work into fewer, longer blocks), remote working (often working from home) and hybrid working (part office, part remote).
OK, so now let’s get into the nitty gritty of flexible working advantages and disadvantages. You might think that flexible working would be great, working the way you want to work, working from home, no commute, more time – what’s not to love? But you’ll be surprised that it’s not all plain sailing, so considering the pros and cons of flexible working before you jump into it, is definitely worth doing.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the flexible working advantages and disadvantages …
Let’s first look at the advantages of flexible working.
For sure the pros of flexible working for employees are many and attractive, but they do depend on the type of flexibility on offer and the personality traits of the individual.
Freedom is one of the major advantages of flexible working, and being able to choose where and when you work can mean a much better work life balance, with the ability to fit in all those things which are important to you, like walking the dog or going to the gym, whilst still being able to be productive in your work.
The value of being trusted by your employer to do your job in a way which works for you cannot be underestimated and is one of the key benefits of flexible working. So, tying in with the earlier point, having freedom and being trusted are advantages of flexible working which make the prospect very attractive.
If you’re working from home, having no commute and the opportunity for saving you time and money are also very attractive advantages of flexible working. Why spend time sitting in traffic or waiting for a bus, paying for this inconvenience, when you can simply slip downstairs in your comfies and log on from the comfort of your home?
Working part time or flexing hours so you’re not sitting at your desk for eight hours straight can bring huge benefits of flexible working and taking regular breaks, perhaps by getting outdoors or doing an activity you love can keep your mind fresh and healthy, so you do your best work in your hours worked.
If you’re a parent, the advantages of flexible working are huge, and being able to work hours which fit around the school day, term time, or avoid spending time and money commuting by working from home are brilliant.
One of the big pros of flexible working nowadays come from the fact that there are so many interesting career roles offering part-time hours, remote working or available on a job share basis. The benefits therefore are open to a much broader demographic, with experienced candidates now able to apply for and benefit from senior roles.
There are two sides to this one, as you’ll see further down, but surveys do show that one of the major advantages of flexible working is less stress, because employees feel more satisfied with work, can switch off and have more time to live their lives and relax with friends and family.
So, naturally there are some disadvantages of flexible working as we will explore below, and it can take a certain type of person for this way of working to be beneficial. It’s therefore worth considering all the cons of flexible working for employees to gain a balanced view.
Here are some of the disadvantages of flexible working:
One of the major disadvantages of flexible working can be the challenge of finding a healthy work/life balance, particularly if you’re working from home. Having your computer always around may entice you to check emails outside of your working hours, and your desk in say your kitchen, might be a constant reminder of your work when you’re actually not working, which is why this one is right up there as one of the drawbacks of flexible working to be aware of.
Another of the disadvantages is the need by employees to be disciplined about their working hours. There are many distractions when working from home, and ignoring these to maintain the focus on work can be challenging and is therefore very definitely one of the cons of flexible working.
We saw above that flexibility can lower stress levels but one of the disadvantages of flexible working is that it can actually increase stress levels. The challenges of juggling family life and all the other external pressures can become great, and if you’re working from home, without colleagues around you to spot the signs, this can unfortunately go unnoticed.
Working from home or flexible hours is not for everyone and one of the disadvantages of flexible working is that it isn’t suited to certain personalities. Extraverts and those who get energy from others may find remote working one of the huge drawbacks. People with introvert personality traits may also find it difficult communicating in video meetings, which can limit their creative input and add to anxiety and stress levels mentioned above.
People who are working remotely are at the mercy of their Wi-Fi capabilities, and challenges with technology can be difficult for employees. Everything is online, files need to be accessed and meetings need to be conducted so challenges with communications and technology can be major disadvantages of flexible working.
Whether you’re stressing out on too many hours, frustrated at tech issues, anxious about online meetings or sitting in a chair which is damaging your back, the risks to mental and physical health are cons of flexible working worth considering and it’s important that your employer gives you adequate support to safeguard your mental and physical health.
In some organisations unfortunately, being out of sight working from home or working reduced hours may damage your career prospects, and these are definitely disadvantages of flexible working. However, if your employer allows you to work flexibly but overlooks you for promotion, you have to question the leadership and whether the organisation has the right culture and approach for flexibility.
So, hopefully this has given you a helpful insight into the pros and cons of flexible working for employees. It is important to be aware of the flexible working advantages and disadvantages, and the employer and employee certainly need to have the right mindset for it to be successful, so it’s important to do careful due diligence. Good luck in your job search!
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