Flexible Working: Taking it to the Next Level

Written by Steven Marwick
Author

There are many characteristics that people associate with flexible working. It may be the ability to juggle the hours worked easily so that if you need an afternoon off, you can easily make the time up on other days. It may look like working hours that are designed to fit around your childcare. 

There is no doubt that since the Covid-19 pandemic, people have been exploring different ways of working and trying to integrate them more successfully into their desired lifestyles. Employers have been more open to this as well, seeing increased workplace flexibility as being a key way to retain existing staff during the skills gap as well as helping to attract new and happy staff.

Flexible Working Options

There are many different ways of allowing a degree of flexibility in the workplace and of helping employees to find what works out best for them. Some of the most popular flexible working options are listed below.

Working from Home or Remotely

One of the largest shifts in thinking that has happened as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the realisation that working from home was a genuine option for many staff. The ability to use things like video-calling software is now fully embedded with most staff so that training and upskilling doesn’t even need to happen anymore in order to make it feasible. 

Many workers now see working from home as their preferred option, with some going as far as to say they would leave a job that didn’t allow it. In many cases, it cuts out a long commute which was leaving them tired and irritable at the end of the day, and they now feel they can be more productive at work. 

A fully remote option where they can work from anywhere, not just from home, is also something that is seeing a real upsurge, notably in Generation Z, who want to be able to combine the best parts of working and travelling. Even in workplaces where fully remote options aren’t offered as standard, some employees are being offered workations as a perk, allowing them to maximise their holiday time and still catch some sunshine while they work.

Compressed Hours as Flexible Working

Allowing employees to “compress” their hours into four days instead of five, and giving them an extra weekday free from work is proving to be a popular option where it is offered. This is what is often referred to as the four-day working week and pilots have been run in some countries to determine whether this increases the happiness felt by employees in their daily lives. The other variable being measured keenly is productivity, to explore whether this is a situation that has upsides for both employer and employee.

In this scenario, employees typically work 2 hours extra each of the 4 days they work, with an extra hour at the start and end, but then gain a day where they have no work at all. Many employees who do this appreciate it because they can get many of their life chores done much easier as they are at home during office hours at least one day per week that isn’t the weekend. 

Flexible Hours

This is where employees are allowed to work different hours from the majority of their colleagues. Flexible hours can mean that someone both starts later and finishes later in order to take account of their lifestyle. 

This adjustment may be to allow them to drop their kids off at school, or for any other reason, that is permitted. Some people feel that they are just not morning people so may want to start later in order to be as productive as they can be at work and give their best possible performances.

This phenomenon is something that is borne out by science, people’s internal circadian rhythms can be different, leading some people to naturally perform at a higher level in the mornings, and others later in the day.

Asynchronous Working as Flexible Working

This is a subset of flexible working where the employees’ colleagues are encouraged to note that when they send an email, they shouldn’t expect a same-day response as the other person is working to a different set of hours than they are. 

Asynchronous working is something that is sometimes granted to employees who are working fully remotely when they have gone to somewhere like Mexico or Argentina where the time zones are considerably different. 

This can actually prove to be a very efficient way of working and getting things done because rather than constantly being interrupted by emails coming in, all of the emails to deal with that day are sitting waiting to be dealt with as a batch. Many people prefer asynchronous working for this reason and they feel that they can complete their daily work much more quickly and to a higher standard because of this.

Banking of Hours / Annualised Hours

This can be a way for employees to work more of their hours within a set portion of the year and then effectively take a longer portion of time away from work as their working hours are either being banked against this break time or counted annually. This is sometimes done when workers want to spend more time in a warm climate over winter, so they work longer hours during the rest of the year to “bank” enough hours for that extra couple of weeks or months off work to enjoy some rest and relaxation somewhere warm. This only works for businesses where their busy times are when the employee will be at work. If the time they proposed to take their extended break wasn’t convenient for the company then it wouldn’t make sense to agree to it. 

Where it is doable and is over a quiet period, there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to be against this as it means there is still enough work for the other employees and you get a motivated and loyal staff member who has no wish to leave or change their job any time soon. 

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