What businesses need to do to improve flexible working practices

Almost two-thirds of workers would like flexible start and finish times. But nearly a third are not comfortable asking their employer about what options they have.

This blog was originally posted on LinkedIn.

Let me throw a few statistics at you. Almost two-thirds of workers (63%) would like flexible start and finish times. But nearly a third (28%) are not comfortable asking their employer about what options they have and a unanimous 81% are looking to work for an organisation that offers flexible working.

These were just some of the figures produced in our recent flexible working research report about how organisations are embracing flexible working. I’d like to expand on these points and talk about some of the specific areas that organisations need to improve to make a difference to the work environment of their people.​

Flexible working is always something that I’ve valued throughout my career. I know how much it means to people, we all lead busy lives and being able to have control over the way in which we work is important.

But what does this mean for employers?

If you want to attract the best talent, you need to let prospective candidates know that flexible working is important to you too. Literally, shout about it from the rooftops! Few organisations are doing this so you’re already ahead of the competition. Guess who they’ll be applying to. My (humble) advice would be to start thinking about the channels you can use to get the message across, such as on your website, job ads and job specs. You might even want to make it part of your onboarding process for new recruits.

​Also, consider different ways of resourcing, such as introducing job shares. This method not only means you can look at candidates you perhaps wouldn't have considered before, but it's a great way to solve skills shortages. By having two or three ‘part-time’ individuals doing one ‘full time’ job, you benefit from the experience and knowledge of each person.

​Internally, you also need to raise awareness of flexible working. You certainly don’t want to have a culture where people are afraid to talk to their managers about it. I accept that this isn't easy but ultimately it comes down to changing attitudes and entrenched behaviours. You may need to provide training so that line managers are prepared to field questions and perhaps run trials to see what works and what doesn't. We've seen it work best when senior leaders are role-modelling the behaviour you want to see. This sends a strong message to all staff that this approach to working has been embraced and it is being encouraged.

​Following on from this, talk to your people, hold company conference calls or face-to-face meetings to explain your position, conduct surveys, do whatever you need to do to find out what people want. It’s no good thinking you’re doing a great job implementing flexible working when many of your employees aren't aware of your policies or the culture is such that they don’t feel confident raising the topic.

​I certainly don’t have all the answers but what I do know is that flexible working makes very sound business sense and is proven to increase wellbeing, engagement and loyalty. Trust inevitably plays a massive part – but if you've made the right hires and you have faith in your selection process, what have you got to worry about?

​I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share your experiences and let’s keep the conversation going.

​Learn more in our flexible working report here.

​Hear me discuss this topic in more detail alongside Procter & Gamble, UBS and My Family Care in our recent webinar.

Posted about 7 years ago
About the author:
Lee Chant

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