It used to be the case that only carers and those looking after children had a legal right to request changes to their working hours and start and finish times. On 30th June 2014 the law changed. Now all employees with six months’ service have a right to request flexible working, and for those requests to be considered by their employers in a reasonable manner.
This is great for employees, but is it great for businesses? Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages…
Advantages of flexible working for businesses
- It creates a boost in staff morale. Offering flexibility over working hours to employees has been proven to boost morale. Employees can see that their employers have respect and understanding for their other commitments. For older employees, allowing flexible working by reducing or changing their core hours can lead them to want to be in work for longer, thereby extending their careers. For younger employees, flexible working can be useful if they are engaged in further study. It makes for happier employees, and a happier workforce is generally a more productive one.
- Some employees work better at different hours. If all your employees work nine to five, they all have to contend with the same distractions and interruptions which come as standard with this kind of regular working day. Examples include answering colleagues’ questions, dealing with phone calls and emails from clients, customers, suppliers or other departments and sorting out other office issues. But employees working earlier or later than the usual hours will have to contend with a lot less of this, and be able to work faster and more efficiently.
- Employers are under no obligation to grant flexible working. As with the old rules, employers only need to consider flexible working requests reasonably and give sound business reasons should they decide to refuse requests. If a business literally cannot function properly by allowing flexible working, the law respects that. The new rules are not intended to create onerous and demanding duties for employers.
Disadvantages of flexible working for businesses
- The new rules create more work for employers. This is inevitable, because now employers have to deal with requests from any employee who may have other commitments. More requests will be made, and more time will be spent considering them. Employers need to try and manage this as efficiently as possible. They should have a flexible working policy in place and make sure that they have clear business reasons for refusing any requests, reasons that employees will be able to understand.
- The logistics of company and client meetings can become more difficult. If certain employees are working different hours, it can make managing clients’ expectations and organising internal meetings more difficult, particularly if you have a large company with lots of people working different hours. A relatively easy solution to this issue is careful and thorough diary management.
- Employee unavailability. If employees are working earlier or later than others, it can make it more difficult for other workers to have their questions answered or their work considered. If can also mean that other employees have to attend to customers who call in when the flexi-time employee is unavailable. This doesn’t need to be too intrusive or disruptive, because customers can be told when certain employees are unavailable and can leave messages. In a lot of cases, flexi-time employees are happy to answer urgent questions over the phone or by email when they are out of the office.
- Jealousy amongst employees. If an employer grants flexible working to one employee and not another, it can be difficult for those employees to understand, even where there are sound business reasons behind both decisions. Jealousy and perceptions of favouritism can have the opposite effect on morale to what the new law intends. Employers need to make sure that all reasons given for granting or refusing flexible working are clear, easy to understand, business-focused and not based on any prejudice or non-business-related concern.
When you lay out these pros and cons, it is easier to see the pros, and see solutions to the cons. Send Business Centre provides Surrey office space and Woking serviced offices, which are perfect for flexible workers because they come with 24-hour access. For more information, call 01483 225617.