A guide to the world of flexible work

When the idea of flexible working pops into your mind, you may immediately think about part-time or freelance work. And yes, these are types of flexible work. But now, in response to technological growth and the COVID-19 pandemic, some traditional employers are beginning to offer their full-time staff a chance to work following a flexible schedule. 🤯

For many companies, the idea of their employees out of sight and even time zones away produces unimaginable stress and anxiety. It is perfectly normal, and it is right to be hesitant to embrace something unfamiliar. 😱

So, here is why this article is so vital for you. We will offer an overview of what offering flexibility at work can mean with a deep dive into:

  • What does it mean when I say flexible work? And the different types of flexibility workforces have.
  • The advantages of the approach
  • The disadvantages of flexible work

So, get your coffee (and biscuits!) in hand, and prepare yourself to enter the world of flexibility in the workspace!

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What is flexible work?

A flexible schedule offers an organization and its employees the opportunity to meet their own needs and work according to their programme. 👨👩

What are different types of flexible work? 💭

Flexible work varies and can include:

  • Hybrid work. Some staff will work in the office, others remotely. Your employees have the freedom of choice when it comes to location.
  • Remote work. Where employees work away from the physical workplace, either at home, a library or co-working space. Anywhere with a strong wi-fi connection
  • Condensed working week. An employee still works standard full-time working hours but packaged within fewer days. You may work four days rather than five a week.
  • Flexitime. The employee chooses when their working day commences and finishes, as long as they still work their contracted hours.
  • Part-time. You employ people to do work that may not take up sufficient hours to justify a full-time position.
  • Shift work. The working day is split up into different shifts, depending on the needs of the business, be that day or night.

What does flexible work mean for businesses and employees?

It can provide employees and employers alike the opportunity to:

  • Decide where they wish to work, be that from home, abroad or sitting in a cafe. 🌴
  • The freedom to choose and follow the work schedule that works best. And in the hours of the day that best suits them.
  • Whilst still respecting the need for core hours, everyone can attend meetings and crucially collaborate with clients.
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With a growing demand for a better work-life balance among the workforce, having the opportunity to work freely and with more control over their daily lives, the discussion over flexibility impacts recruiting and retaining top talent.

The advantages of flexibility in the workplace

It can empower and help retain your best employees 💪

For workers, there is a growing desire for the freedom to work where they please. 80% of workers would rather work somewhere with a flexible schedule over a job that didn't. And for businesses, offering flexible work to both candidates and their existing teams is pivotal to improving retention rates at a company.

It is crucial businesses keep their best people around. And so, listening to your workforce’s wishes regarding flexible work can have many benefits for the employer-employee relationship. By offering workers the chance to work freely, they will feel more empowered. Appreciative of the trust shown in allowing them to work away from the office can positively contribute to work performance, productivity, and loyalty. 🤩

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Plus, happy with their flexible work situation, you are likely to see less turnover in staff. Your employees feel higher rates of job satisfaction because of their new everyday work situation, granting them an improvement in work/life balance, which is a significant factor why people decide to look for jobs elsewhere. Thus, saving you, in the long run, having to undertake lengthy and expensive recruitment processes. Furthermore, in some cases, employees are willing to accept 8% less in salary if they can work flexibly. 😊

It can help to attract top talent

With flexibility now a significant factor in influencing a candidate's attraction to an organization, it is crucial to consider offering employees the chance. Additionally, 93% of knowledge workers would desire a flexible schedule, so to compete and help recruit top talent, flexibility should be near the top of your list of work perks. 📋

A global team to enrich your business

Furthermore, moving towards a flexible approach to work can help expand your horizons. When based in a fixed location, your recruiting efforts depended on your candidate's skills, obviously, and their ability to travel easily to the office, limiting your pool of candidates based on rigid geography. But, with a flexible approach, the internet and a strong wi-fi connection can bring you together with candidates you would never have been aware of. 📡

A flexible working model allows you to widen your search parameters and find more diverse and exciting candidates and employees. Businesses that seek to expand their diversity are 35% more likely to have a financial performance above the industry mean—bringing new ideas, creativity and working styles to drive your organization forward. 

The relaxing of attitudes towards whether employees need to be present in the office each day, and technological progress, has provided companies with the tools to expand their focus. Thus, bringing you a step closer to your next business leaders and team members from places you never thought to look. So, a flexible working style can open your mind and help create a high functioning, global workforce. 🧰

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Full steam ahead! Flexibility can increase your company's productivity

A significant concern for many employers related to flexible work is whether it can affect productivity. Out of sight and away from your direct control, are your employees working? 

But in truth, among employees who have flexibility at work, it helps increase productivity. A study by the US Patent and Trademark Office found that among staff who worked away from the office, they were 4.4% more productive than their counterparts in the office.

Why and how is this possible?

You need to give your employees some credit for that. A little bit of trust goes a long way, and no one wants to lose their job because they were sitting around watching The Sopranos instead of work. When your employees can exercise more control over their job, it makes them happier and more productive. 😺

Flexible work grants employees the opportunity to better balance their home and work lives. They can now work when it best suits them, focussing their efforts during peak performance hours, where their sole focus is to complete their work effectively and efficiently. ⚙️

As well as this, flexibility provides a more agile approach to working and can help your business become more available to its customers. Through staggered hours or alternative shift patterns, you can offer your clients a more comprehensive service, cater to their requirements and deliver excellent performance.

Save money and the planet, hooray!

For both parties, flexible work can save a great deal of money. For employees, no longer taking out a second mortgage on the daily commute, lunches, or office wear, means more money in your pocket come payday. And for companies and employers, a workforce working remote means smaller overheads. Thus, allowing you to reduce the amount you spend on rent or energy consumption, like electricity and water. 💰

In addition, as a result of these reductions, you are also contributing a smaller carbon footprint. For example, transport accounts for an estimated quarter of CO2 emissions; cars, buses or motorbikes, account for three-quarters of these greenhouse gas emissions, which are the most common ways to travel to work. By working flexibly and embracing remote work patterns, we can reduce the harmful impact workplace environments have on the climate by reducing use.

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The disadvantages of flexibility at work

It can affect employee focus and productivity

When working to a flexible schedule, your employee is their boss. They set the hours and have to be sufficiently self-motivated and disciplined to know when to work and ensure it is of the right quality. But, not everyone can follow these sorts of demands, and with no boss close at hand, what is stopping the siren call of their sofa and the warm embrace of Netflix. In addition, 32% of employees believe that watching TV is their major distraction when working from home.

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Procrastination can be a struggle on the best days, but with all the time in the world, in the comfort of the home, increasing the range and possibility of distractions, you have a real fight on your hands. 🧟

When distractions increase, employee focus can drop dramatically

The influx of distractions that comes with working away from the office can cause serious issues, mainly affecting the employee's output. For example, a lack of focus can hinder your employee's ability to complete tasks or follow deadlines for vital work. Thus, creating significant speed bumps within your organization's internal process and even your reputation among customers. 💔

Without supervision and enjoying the freedom offered by flexible work, some employees may struggle to focus on their job. In addition, as a result of the slack created, it may force other employees to take on increasing workloads to stop further slides. Which places unnecessary strain on your employee's shoulders and affects their mental and physical health, causing them to miss workdays and adding to the organization's misery. 🏋️‍♀️

An increasing reliance on technology 💻

With employees scattered across kitchens, offices, cafes local and beyond, gone is the ability to walk over to your colleague's desk to discuss work. Or organize quick catch-ups or meetings. Instead, flexible work relies on technology to communicate among the workforce, manage workflows, collaborate on tasks and allow for successful output and work performance.

But what happens to this if the technology is not working? Important projects curtailed, communication breakdowns. Suppose it is difficult to contact your workforce or because of your employees working worldwide and timezones. In that case, it can impact the coordination of projects, affect collaboration, or the ability to have meetings and phone calls. So, causing delay and potentially damaging results. 

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Impact the culture of the organization 

With employees working remotely, detached from one another, it can be challenging for businesses to forge a workplace culture among many distant components. No longer fixed or linked by one work location, working to a flexible routine can have adverse social impacts upon your business. 📏

It can hinder engagement between teams and employees, preventing the construction of positive working relationships or help the integration of recruits. With everyone displaced, all doing their own thing, it can be a struggle to build that unity of successful businesses.

The relationships between co-workers are vital to the success of a business. Your colleagues' support and the trust and willingness to go the extra step for them can help achieve extraordinary things. ✨

Furthermore, strong workplace culture and evidence of a great environment to learn, grow and have fun can increase new interest in your roles. Candidates wish to feel that they are joining an organization that enjoys each other's company and allows them to build good relationships both inside and outside of work. Which if everyone is working away from one another, it can be hard to establish.

Severely impact work performance

With your employees following different schedules and from other locations, it can result in incompatibilities preventing the successful completion of work, slowing down progress and resulting in missed opportunities. ⏰

When no longer fixed around one location, the loss of direct, face-to-face connection can affect departments, teams, and employees' performance, limiting cohesiveness and the successful exchange of ideas. A third of UK workers believe that those who work flexibly create more work for others to handle.

With this can come mounting frustration. Losing one's ability to work collaboratively with co-workers because they are not in the office and difficult to reach can damage workplace harmony. No longer united within the office or resentful that some can work from home every day. It can cause feelings of isolation and affect motivation or hunger to deliver great work because they feel unfairly treated.

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To be flexible, or not, it is your decision 🤔

So, you've got the facts. You've learnt about what flexibility could bring to your organization and employees, as well as the potential negative side effects. Therefore, it is now up to you and what would work for your business. Is this the future? Who knows, it is dependent on your industry and style of working, but having all the facts can inform your decision making.

Remember, when thinking about whether to embrace flexibility at work, talk to your employees beforehand. Gather their feedback and understand how they may feel about it. Your employees will be the ones living the new flexible reality, so hearing their thoughts is crucial.

Good luck! 🤞

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