At JBH Refurbishments we take an interest in the different way’s companies in London and Kent work and their forward thinking. On this occasion we are exploring flexible working.
We all strive to achieve that ideal work life balance and flexible working hours makes this desire far more achievable. So, what are the different types of flexible working hours, which companies champion this method of working, who is eligible and who does it suit best?
What is Flexible Working?
Let’s start with the definition of flexible working. It is not just starting and finishing earlier than the average 09:00 to 17:30 working day. It comes in many forms. Here are some examples of flexible working arrangements:
- Working from home part of the week and going into the office for the rest. This kind of arrangement can benefit employees that work a distance from the office and use their travelling time more wisely. It can also help with productivity, as often working from home is less disruptive than working in a busy office environment. Plus, the employer can take advantage of extra space office during part of the week, which could be occupied by another employee.
- Job sharing allows a business to tap in on the skills of two individuals, while paying the equivalent of one wage. It also allows the employees to undertake a part time position, which could suit a parent, a carer or partially retired person. While the job in question may demand a full time employee, the employer is able to offer two part time positions.
- Part time hours vary from job to job and again can benefit both the employer and employee. A small business for example may not have the resources to employ someone full time, yet still requires a certain skill sets to support their business, such as an administrator, accountant or marketing position. There are many qualified individuals that cannot commit to a full-time role but still want to work in their preferred field, so part time can be a great solution for both parties.
- Condensed hours mean the employee works longer hours, but less days. This flexible working arrangement could be suited to shift workers and office workers, who prefer to work longer in order to take a few days off at the end of the week or month. The condensed hours could include hours before and after the normal working day and/or weekends. It is similar to working in lieu to accumulate hours worked in order o get time off.
- Staggered hours are where the employee works a set amount of hours a day, but they can choose to start and finish earlier or vice versa. They may also be required to work at a set time because it might be the busiest time of day, the employer requires the entire team to work simultaneously at key times or meeting schedules require a full-team participation.
Who is Eligible for Flexible Working?
Besides a few exceptions that we will come to in a moment, the majority of employees are eligible for flexible working hours if they have been employed with the same employer for more than 26 weeks and have not applied for flexible working within the last 12 months. In this instance, employees have the lawful right to be considered for a flexible working arrangement. The employer however does have the overriding decision and if the case is declined, the employer will need to provide suitable reasons for the decision.
Who isn’t Eligible for Flexible Working Hours?
There are circumstances where employees are not eligible for flexible working hours/arrangements regardless of if they have been employed for 26 weeks or more. If you work as any of the following you may have more difficulty applying for flexible working:
- Members of the armed forces
- Agency workers. However, those returning from parental leave can apply
- An employee shareholder, unless they are returning from parental leave
Can an Employer Refuse a Flexible Working Request?
It is worth noting that not all employers can provide flexible working arrangements due to the financial burden it may cause to the business. For example, a small shop with two members of staff will find it difficult to offer such an arrangement in the available working hours. Here are some more examples of why an employer may refuse an application for flexible working:
- Financial impact on the business
- Negative impact on customer service and ability to meet customer demand
- It does not suit the existing workforce arrangements, or recruiting additional staff to fulfil the hours is problematic
- Negative impact on quality and performance of the service/product supplied by the business
- The employer can not provide enough work during the requested hours
Which Companies Champion Flexible Working?
Never in the history of employee and employer relationships has there been so much consideration for one anothers needs when it comes to work life balance. This is thanks to forward-thinking organisations that have tried and tested flexible working arrangements, finding that it not only benefits the employee, but can have a positive impact on the business too.
Here in the UK, companies like Vodafone, TFL and WorldPay are leading the way in offering flexi-time and smaller organisations are following suit. From duvet days to unpaid leave, these companies put their employees first and return experience better staff retention and excellent productivity.
Who Benefits from Flexible Working?
There are many circumstances when businesses and their employees do benefit from flexible working.
For the employer, flexible working can:
- Reduce absences at work
- Improve an individual’s motivation and productivity
- Reduce staff turnover
- Enhance mutual respect between employee and employer
Flexible working arrangement also give employers access to a wider skills pool and job sharing enables a business to employ two employees with varying skill set. If we were to use marketing lingo, the business ultimately gets two for one.
For the employee, flexible working hours encourages and enables more people to work. This not only has a positive impact on the individual’s personal finances, but also their mindset and selfworth.
The UK economy benefits too. In the past, work has not been feasible for a large proportion of the population. Parents and those that suffer with health conditions can find it difficult to work a full day but working from home and part-time hours allows these individuals to earn well. The increase in flexible working could be the reason unemployment levels in the UK are currently at a low 4.1%!
ACAS Flexible Working Tools and Resources
ACAS provides advice and resources on all manner of workplace issues for both the employee and and employer. The ACAS flexible working resources can be found on their website.
How Can an Office Fit Out Support Flexible Working?
For a business that is offering flexible working hours, the office fit out can enhance the performance of their staff.
If your business is new to flexible working then its probably a good time to review the layout and furniture in your office. Someone working shorter hours will be trying to fit more work in during a shorter space of time. Therefore, they will need somewhere they can concentrate. In the office environment, privacy screens can help, so can pod style seating. If you have several flexible workers, why not consider bench desks, which can save space.
A break out zone and a fully equipped office kitchen is recommended for businesses that have staff members working on a condensed hour arrangement. Although the employee is likely to have requested to work longer hours, they will need somewhere to prepare food and beverages. A breakout zone gives those working long hours a change of scene in order to be more productive.
The office décor can help to inspire and enhance the productivity of staff too. The office environment needs to look professional and the décor should be on brand, as well as portray the business ethos. We have created several articles on this topic in the past for you to reference.