If you ask any office employee what they would like most to change about their job, the chances are that they would ask for flexible working hours. For lots of employees, especially those with families or who have to do battle with rush hour traffic every day, the ability to shift their working hours to suit their lifestyle better is a great opportunity.
Though many employers worry that giving their staff this flexibility will lead to them taking advantage of their new freedoms, there are actually a lot of benefits worth considering before dismissing the idea entirely. Happier staff, longer opening hours and reduced risk of employees burning out are all reasons that flexible working is the way of the future.
Flexible working doesn’t have to be a difficult policy to monitor. All you really need to know is whether your staff are producing the right amount of work, deadlines are being met and your business is profitable. Beyond that, do you really mind if your employees do their best work at home in their pajamas?
And if you are worried about how you will organize everyone, here are 9 free employee scheduling software tools to assuage that concern straight off the bat. With the right tool, a positive attitude and a chance for your employees to settle into the new routines, flexible working could be the thing that pushes your business toward greater success.
Keeps Employees Happy
Happy employees are often the employees who feel that they have the power of self-determination. This means giving them the opportunity to manage their time according to their own needs and desires. It means flexitime.
Google is famed for allowing its employees time each week to pursue their own interests in what it calls 20% time but this method isn’t the only way to encourage your employees to be more creative and energetic at work. Flexible working will allow your employees to organize their time better so that they can be at home when they need to be, at work when they need to be, and never pushed into working hours that just won’t suit them.
You don’t have to offer a full day, just show leniency to their plans.
And of course, happy staff are staff who will stick with you and your company. One of the main reasons that talented people leave companies is to benefit from flexible working opportunities elsewhere. This is particularly true of millennials, who are leading the trend, as well as parents who want to be able to spend more quality time with their children. The opportunity to work part-time is also an increasing demand, especially with older workers.
One of the more surprising effects of offering flexible working is that employees are actually more productive when they can choose their working hours than when they are working traditional hours at the office. This suggests that while there may be some rogue employees who will just sit watching TV and pretend to work from home, the vast majority will get more done and to a higher standard.
It seems that when they are working away from the humdrum of office life, employees are more likely to be engaged with what they are doing, rather than sitting around waiting for home time. Because they are in control of what they do and when, they are also able to do their work when they are most focused on the job, and won’t feel bad about taking more regular breaks when they need. In other words, the lack of direct supervision gives employees the best chance of working at their own speed, rather than trying to work to a dictated pattern.
Enhances Work/Life Balance for Families
If there is one trend that is driving the fashion for offering flexible working, it is the idea of creating a work/life balance. As an employer, you might be willing to put your business first, but you can’t expect the same from all your staff. They need time to be able to pursue their own goals, whether they are family, health or educationally oriented. Flexible working is about achieving that.
The work/life balance is increasingly under threat. Technologies such as smartphones are making it ever more difficult to switch off from work at the right time and the structured working day makes it harder for 9-5 employees to manage basic areas of their lives such as childcare and their own healthcare. But, with flexible working comes the opportunity to schedule their lives more efficiently.
Flexible working will allow parents the time to go and see their kids at school productions or be able to get a health appointment during the day rather than rushing off after work. All of this gives them a better chance of reducing their stress, switching off from work when they really need to and achieving a better overall work/life balance.
Reduces the Chances of Burnout
Happy employees who can work to their own patterns and have achieved a great work/life balance are usually less stressed. If you think about it, this should be a pretty obvious conclusion to draw. When workers feel less pressured and have more control over their work/life balance, there is generally less conflict to be resolved. Wouldn’t you be less stressed?
The great advantage of not being stressed is the decreased likelihood of burnout amongst your staff. While they continue to push through their 9-5 hours, racing off to get home to spend time with their families or struggling to fit in other important activities, your employees are naturally going to become exhausted. If they don’t have to pack so much in, they won’t. Instead, they will be healthier, calmer and better at their jobs.
This isn’t just great news for your employees, it’s also good for your business. If you are risking burnouts, you are also risking your productivity and profitability. What’s worse, is that you can’t even predict when a burnout is going to happen so, at any point in a project, you could end up having to change tack due to staff absence. Instead of taking this risk, give your employees a chance to monitor their own risk and take action before the symptoms worsen. A duvet day might sound like a day of bunking off, but it could be a day in anticipation, rather than a week as a result of burnout.
Opportunity to Extend Office Hours
One final reason that you should be considering flexible working has almost nothing to do with your employees. If you have workers who would prefer to be in the office early, and others who would prefer to work late, you have the perfect opportunity to extend your office hours without having to hire extra staff or enforce longer hours on your current employees.
The very same technology that has made work/life balance so hard for workers to achieve is also influencing the hours that clients expect to be able to get in touch with your office. The longer you can stay open, the happier your clients will be as they will have greater access to your work. Using flexible working to achieve this goal is a brilliant compromise to keep everyone happy.
However, you should be wary that this extension of hours doesn’t put undue pressure on some employees to stay later and work later as a consequence of your new hours. Try to achieve a balance in order to make sure that everyone is happy about when they work. This is, admittedly, easier in a larger company, but there is no reason that it can’t be achieved in a smaller company as long as employees are allowed to be open about their wants and needs.
Give Flexible Working a Go
Though many businesses are put off by the idea of flexible working, it is becoming clear that the advantages are not to be ignored. If you are looking to modernize your office, give your employees greater freedom and encourage young new talent to come and work for you long term, flexible working is an ideal solution.
If you are looking for a starting point to trial flexible working, why not have a go at switching to core hours where everyone is in the office and then encouraging flexible working around those hours? This will allow your employees some freedom to beat the rush hour and shift their hours slightly to suit them better without having to go all in on the flexible route. Over time you could then start to introduce greater freedom and flexibility as your company expands and the new working culture is established and respected.
As millennials continue to move up through the workforce and further generations follow in their footsteps, it is likely that ever more businesses will turn to flexible working as a way to entice young talent to join them. It seems that it is only a matter of time before the traditional working day is buried in the past. Now is the time to set your sights on the future instead.