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Many companies throughout the world are beginning to recognise the importance and benefits of offering the option flexi work arrangements. A 2018 report revealed 53% of firms surveyed offered at least one flexible working arrangement, such as part-time work, flexible hours or working from home (WFH).
Flexible working is the name given to any type of working pattern which is different from an employees typical routine. Finding the right balance in your personal and professional life is a basic need of any employee. The balance can be gained through a flexi working system: a way of working that improves our workforce’s efficiency and productivity, making available flexible work hours, telework and work-life balance.
Flexible working arrangements includes: changing from full-time to part-time work; changing the part-time hours that you work, for example from weekends to weekdays; changing working hours to fit in with, for example, school hours, college hours or care arrangements; compressed hours ie.working your usual hours except over less days; flexitime, which allows you to fit your working hours around agreed core times; working from home or remotely for part or all of the time; job sharing; self-rostering, where your shift pattern is drawn up to match your preferred times as closely as possible; shift working; staggered hours, which allow you to start and finish your days at different times; time off in lieu; term-time work, so you don’t work during the school holidays
In the contemporary scenario more companies have realized the importance of work-life balance for the employees, so that they remain healthy and happy, which will directly reflect on their productivity at work and overall job satisfaction.
Yet, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) still tend to lag in adopting workplace flexibility for a number of reasons. Some business owners fear that such arrangements hinder work efficiency — a key issue for SMEs that already face hiring challenges. A 2017 survey by credit and business information bureau DP Information Group found that more than one in four SMEs in Singapore have difficulties hiring staff they need, impacting their productivity levels. Others worry that they may struggle to manage staff remotely. Organizations have now come up with creative ideas and appreciable measures for fostering a sense of belongingness amongst the employees in the workplace. One of the best ways is by providing ample freedom and control to the employees for dealing with their work assignments, which will make them feel valued. Various initiatives from the company’s end in the forms of flexi-work options, flexible timings, project contracts, work from home, telecommuting, job sharing, sabbaticals, unlimited vacations, etc, have helped in strengthening the employee-employer relations immensely.
Reasons why SME´s should adopt flexi working options: Improved employee morale
Improved employee morale – Flexible work arrangements can go a long way in lifting the spirits of employees. They allow staff to take a break when they need to, without fear of angering their managers. Not only does this make each member of the workplace feel valued, but it also reduces employee burnout from work overload. One manager commented “We had a very capable employee who was interested in doing some volunteer work. He was a valued member of the team, so we set up a part-time work arrangement that enabled him to come into work twice a week while balancing his external obligations. He stayed with us for five years and did not have any problems meeting his work deadlines,”
In addition, the link between work flexibility and employee morale, the Ministry of Manpower’s Conditions of Employment 2018 Report, which covered about 1.3 million workers and 3,700 firms, revealed that a lack of flexibility in the workplace played the biggest part of an employees decision to resign. But the concept of flexi work goes beyond being able to set your own schedule. It is a way of ensuring employee well-being and improving employee health by allowing people to reduce fatigue and stress overall providing a feeling of better health and therefore performing better. “
The main characteristics of flexi-working is that it gives employees greater flexibility and autonomy so that they can organise their work more conveniently. Work is no longer measured solely in terms of the amount of time spent but also according to objectives and results, enabling employees to perform their functions remotely or to choose their workdays. Employees appreciate when their line manager encourages and works with them to achieve a work life balance.
The world of work is changing. Companies must motivate their employees, both to retain talent and to improve results. For us, flexiworking is one of the solutions for achieving this motivation. It is a commitment to a simple, agile culture, to listening to workers and to achieving more communication among people. In brief it means improving employees lives and the company overall.
Currently, almost all (95%) have implemented flexi-work arrangements due to the pandemic, according to a new study. What’s more, over half of employers reported that remote workers are working at a higher rate of productivity compared with their usual levels, between 50% to 99%. This is welcome news for employees, as two-thirds believe flexible working is crucial to attain a healthy work-life balance. Good news for employers as it can help with staff retention figures.
But having a flexi-work policy may not be enough to retain or attract employees as some people depending on culture etc prefer to make career advancement a priority and others salary packages. Not surprisng competitive remuneration packages remains a priority for many and even now a bit more with the ongoing pandemic, which has been causing high levels of uncertainty and job anxiety.
Even with COVID-19 changing hiring and expectations, employees remain open to new job opportunities that can offer them more. This can be a concern for employers given that the climate at the moment with quite a few stating that operating on a small budget for hiring is proving rather difficult. Employers also expecting an upcoming talent crunch with 58% saying this is due to a lack of candidates with the necessary skills and the ususal increase in competition from other employers.Up to approximately a third of organisations continue to struggle to find candidates who fit in with their corporate culture. The continuance of flexible working, which includes working from home, split teams, and flexible hours, will be a key consideration for hirers, as talent’s expectations surrounding this could differ and change alongside the pandemic. More than anything, employers need to be flexible to meet these needs while also realigning internally on various policies and programmes that will keep talent engaged and motivated. Since 2014, all employees in the UK who have been with their company for longer than six months have the legal right to request flexible working. While the law applies to all workers, it’s generally parents and carers who ask for either flexitime or the ability to work from home. One in three of these requests, however, is turned down, according to a 2019 poll from the Trades Union Congress (TUC). Last year, the TUC formed a coalition with other industry bodies and launched the Flex For All campaign, calling for a change in the law so that all workers would be entitled to flexible working from day one.
Since 2014, all employees in the UK who have been with their company for longer than six months have the legal right to request flexible working. While the law applies to all workers, it’s generally parents and carers who ask for either flexitime or the ability to work from home. One in three of these requests, however, is turned down, according to a 2019 poll from the Trades Union Congress (TUC). Last year, the TUC formed a coalition with other industry bodies and launched the Flex For All campaign, calling for a change in the law so that all workers would be entitled to flexible working from day one. As millions of workers around the world were forced to work from their homes in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, bringing their jobs into their kitchens and spare rooms, the already fuzzy boundaries between home and work life further evaporated. Even now, as governments ease lockdown restrictions, it’s far from business as usual. The future of work is here, and it looks flexible. “All signs indicate that this crisis is going to reshape the experience of work,” says Brigid Schulte, director of the Better Life Lab, a US-based think tank focused on work culture. Attending a virtual meeting inside a colleague’s home, or seeing their child toddle past in the background of a Zoom call, breaks the fourth wall of the workplace. “Now that we’ve seen each other’s full lives, the case for flexible work is going to be a lot easier to make,” Schulte says.
In the past the views on remote working has been damaging. “The fact that remote working never really caught on – that it was seen as a perk or an accommodation mainly for working mothers – shows you the power of status quo bias,” she says. Despite evidence that presenteeism and rigid work hours negatively impact employee wellbeing and productivity, the perception that the best work happens in an office has prevailed. Until now bosses who were once dubious about offering their employees to work remotely or have flexi work have had their hands forced and many have now changed their minds. The chief executives of Barclays and WPP have both said they would like to see flexi working become the new normal. Smaller companies are also thinking along similar lines. Bernhard Niesner, CEO and co-founder of the edutech startup Busuu, says he’s now “pro-remote” since seeing how well his organisation adapted to working from home. “I was a bit afraid, but after the first couple of weeks I’ve since become more optimistic about remote working,” he says.
Nancy Rothbard, a professor at the Wharton School who studies organisational behaviour, says these U-turns are significant. “One of the biggest barriers towards remote working has always been what your direct supervisor thinks,” she says. The setup under lockdown, with workers based at home alongside children, family members and housemates, is untenable in the long-run. According to data from the Office of National Statistics, only 50 per cent of the UK workforce was able to work from home during the lockdown, and a study by the Resolution Foundation, a UK think tank, found that the highest-paid employees were much more likely to be able to work from home. According to the report, “less than one-in-ten of those in the bottom half of earners say they can work from home.”
But while the pandemic may be a proof point for remote or flexible working, the circumstances have been extraordinary. “Employees aren’t just working from home – they’re working from home during an unprecedented global pandemic,” says Jacinta Jiménez, a clinical psychologist and executive coach. “Those are two different things.” If so, post-pandemic working life may be less about where we work and more about a cultural step-change that sees companies offering their workers a greater level of autonomy. Working parents may no longer have to seek permission before taking a morning off to attend to childcare needs, and junior employees may be able to work from home without worrying about the optics. “The modern office is rife with inefficiency,” Schulte says. “The pandemic will be an opportunity to force people to reimagine it and step outside of comfort zones.” Workers want this to change. According to polling from global research firm Gartner, 48 per cent of employees expect to work from home post-pandemic, up from 30 per cent pre-pandemic. While mass adoption of remote working is still far off, it seems certain that the nine-to-five model is no longer fit for purpose. Rothbard expects to see this play out initially as a hybrid model, in which employees work from home a few days a week or only go into the office for specific reasons. “We will have to maintain a work-from-home setup for a while,” she says. “We’re going to have to be adaptable and have these dual modes.” She expects the adaptability companies have shown in keeping their employees safe during the pandemic will influence how businesses are run in the future.
Flexible working opportunities can benefit everyone: employers, employees and their families. Most employers now recognise that it makes good business sense to provide flexible working opportunities for their staff. Overall the advantages of providing a flexi work option
For the employee:
Increased employment opportunities.
More time for family and personal interests in some instances
Less traffic congestion during the normal peak hours as persons
may start and end work at different times.
And for the employer:
Reduction in labour costs as in some instances weekends would
be treated as normal working days payable at normal work rates.
Greater availability of service to customers due to varied opening hours and more business days.
Anyone can ask their UK employer for flexible working arrangements, but the law provides some employees with the statutory right to request a flexible working pattern. You need to- be an employee on payroll not an agency worker or in the armed forces; have worked for your employer for a minimum of 26 weeks and continuously before applying. Under the law your employer must seriously consider any application you make, and only reject it if there are good business reasons for doing so. You have the right to request for flexible working however not the right to have it. An employer can reasonably reject an application where there is a feasible business justification. Employees who do not have the legal right to request flexible working are of course free to ask their employer if they can work flexibly, many employers are willing to consider such requests.
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