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Flexible Working – Are We Any Good At It?

By Nick Carter MA LL.B (Hons) MCIPD RAF - HR Manager Royal Air Force

Flexible Working – Are We Any Good At It?

Date Submitted : 25/10/2016

Life can sometimes just be all consuming, maintaining our working responsibilities can be difficult when we have other responsibilities and priorities.

Whether its dropping off the kids to school, dealing with caring responsibilities, overcoming illness or simply seeking a better work life balance, flexible working is a prominent feature in addressing the work vs personal life issue.


ACAS describes flexible working as any type of working arrangement that gives some degree of flexibility on how long, where and when employees work. Under provisions set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996 and regulations made under it, all employees have a statutory right to ask their employer for a change to their contractual terms and conditions of employment to work flexibly provided they have worked for their employer for 26 weeks continuously at the date the application is made.

Examples of flexible working can include, part time, compressed hours, home working, career breaks, flexitime, job sharing and term time working.

How are we as employers actually balancing the need for productivity and delivery of output against ensuring employees can fulfil their roles to the best of their ability using flexible working?

The CIPD in their 2016 report concludes that there is still some way for employers to go to fulfil their duties in providing more flexible working options.  Employers need to go beyond the informal approach of giving time off adhoc to setting options out to staff on how they can apply for flexible working and make central to the employee proposition ensuring the options are used. It is therefore incumbent upon all levels or organisational management to help shape organisational culture, enabling more flexible ways of working.  Creating this agile workforce can be key to sustained business success and improved agility can provide a more motivated and productive workforce. A competitive advantage can be gained in developing an agile and flexible workforce that can meet business demands quicker and more efficiently.

There are of course barriers to its success, a lack of trust in the employee between line management and other employees feeling they have to be seen at their desk are cited as common reasons for not taking up flexible working options. Conversely In all, 54% of employees nationally use at least one form of flexible working. Part-time working is by some way the most commonly used form of flexible working. 

Home working is a one example not fully exploited by business.  Appreciating the individuals’ circumstances, and setting clear expectations form the outset can make this option hugely beneficial for both parties. The employer still has a duty in regards to health & safety and ensuring there are sufficient resources to carry out the task remotely.  For the business office space can be reduced, hot desking can be implemented to reduce the ‘fixed workplace’ requirement and thus reducing business overhead.  BT has employed such practices and has reduced its physical footprint by 48%.  IT developments and use of cloud based systems contribute to more effective remote working practices that can significantly reduce a long commute and improve working arrangements for staff.

The CIPD survey finds that flexible workers are more satisfied with their jobs and report better work–life balance and less exposure to excessive pressure at work, BP is a good example of where more agile working has attracted talent, increased employee satisfaction and contributed to higher levels of productivity.

To be sustainable, flexible working needs to be a win–win for both the organisation and the individual. The attitudes of managers are key to unlocking the full potential of flexible working and organisations need to ensure that senior and line managers understand their role in shaping organisational culture and enabling more flexible ways of working.

So it is clear that as employers we must do what we can to develop a motivated and productive workforce that instils confidence in developing a flexible culture that supports business output.  We should review current practices and arrangements and detail what flexible working options are considered best for both the business and individual.  In a candidate driven job market, annotating flexible working in a job description can be an attractive proposition for potential applicants, therefore the business is not only seen as family friendly to the employee but sets out their stall from the outset as a considerate employer.



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