How can flexible working make a difference?
Many businesses still aren’t offering flexible working opportunities to staff.
This is leaving working parents feeling discouraged, and is reinforcing the stigma associated with flexible working practices. According to a recent study, 41%* of working mums feel their flexible working is not viewed positively by their colleagues, and 29%* feel discriminated against because of it.
And yet, 60%* of those who work flexibly would like more agility – that is, more time spent remote working or more use of job shares.
To us, a flexible approach to working also needs to be accompanied by a trusting company culture, supportive work environment and an understanding that flexible or part-time work is just as valid and productive as full-time roles.
It’s clear that work still needs to be done to erase the misconceptions associated with flexible working. Why? Because flexible working really can benefit your employees (and subsequently your business) in many different ways.
For many working parents, flexible working can provide sustainable ways to balance at-home demands with a fulfilling career.
Working around the school run for example can make a real difference to work-life logistics, whilst a workplace that practices flexibility and understanding around managing emergency time off when a child in unwell, or needs to be picked up from school unexpectedly, can also help to ease stressful situations.
School holidays can be a particularly challenging time for working parents. During these periods, time could be managed by using accrued hours to balance time off, or by working remotely to reduce time in the office.
By lifting some of the burden of balancing home and work-life, employees can be more focussed, productive and happier when working.
Enhancing career progression
Flexibility can be essential to helping working parents continue progressing in their careers.
As Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, says, “Too many women are not achieving their potential because organisations just don’t understand the benefits all round of creating good flexible working opportunities. That is a waste of their skills and a loss to employers.”
And according to Gillian it’s not just working mothers who are feeling the strain – “Growing numbers of dads are feeling frustrated at the strait jacket of 9 to 5 and want more input into family life.”
In fact, 73%* of working parents believe flexible working in senior roles is key to career progression. There are often no reasons – other than misconceptions or a lack of open conversation – that senior roles can’t be part-time or even managed through a job share to help balance work-life commitments.
Increasingly, elderly parents mean people need flexibility at work in order to manage time around accompanying parents to medical appointments, or meeting with community nurses, carers or local authorities.
Again, these commitments can be eased slightly by the opportunity to work flexibly and/or remotely, and an understanding from employers around unexpected time away from the office.
Something that’s often less considered are flexible working policies during an adoption process or fertility treatment. It’s vital to help support employees during these sensitive and challenging times – even just by being flexible around appointments and time away from the office.
Flexible working is not only a positive and pragmatic way to ease a personal strain on your employees, but also to retain talent in the future.
You don’t want to lose great talent if an employee moves away or the office relocates. Flexible working patterns can help staff to balance a longer journey to work, for example through earlier or later start and finish times.
Another practical solution, tried and tested by some of the team here at Hireserve, can be to combine remote and office working – for example by spending two days at home and three days at the office.
The use of laptops can make this working style much easier, and tools like Skype and Instant Messenger mean staff can simply log on to communicate and collaborate with other team members.
Benefits to business
We’ve covered how flexible working can make a difference your staff, but how can it benefit your organisation?
As mentioned above, flexible working policies are an invaluable tool for staff retention. They can also help to attract new talent – particularly working parents or those returning to work after maternity leave or career breaks. Not only this, but an agile approach to working can give your business the edge when attracting candidates with highly sought-after skills.
Finally, flexible working can also have a real impact on the mindset of your existing team. If a team benefits from flexibility, they may be more willing to be flexible in return, and give more during busier periods for the business. This give-and-take attitude can create an incredibly dedicated and motivated workforce.
*Workingmums.co.uk annual survey, 2017
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