“Flexi Working” – what’s the big idea?

Flexible working is an alternative way of working to suit the needs of the employee. Often you will see flexible working implemented by working from home or another location outside of the office or by offering variable working hours. These options tend to be utilised by employees that have children or are carers, but it is often forgotten that all employees actually have the legal right to request flexible working. As shown on the gov.co.uk website, all employees can apply for flexible working (also known as ‘making a statutory application’) if they have worked continuously for an employer for the last 26 weeks.  The employer then has 3 months to make a decision and make any necessary adjustments to the employee’s contract. Flexible working can be refused but must be done so in writing by the employer and give ‘business reasons’ for doing so.

So that’s the legal bit. But is it worth it for your employees? What difference will it make?

  • Allows employees to avoid the stress of commuting and the possibility of being late. Whilst this may not sound like it’s your problem as an employer (after all, it isn’t your fault that someone has broken down on the A1M and caused a tailback?), you’d be amazed at the change in mood of your employees when they haven’t had to spend the best part of an hour stuck in traffic, whilst panicking about arriving at their desk past 9am. Giving your employees flexi working hours will likely go a long way to easing the stress of commuting. You will always have those who would rather come in early and leave earlier, and vice versa with the night owls, so chances are your lines of communications will be covered throughout the day.
  • Gives employees the freedom to ensure they are achieving a proper work/ life balance. Having less constraints around where employees need to be working means that your staff will likely be able to conduct a better work/ life balance, which has been shown to increase productivity and therefore your agency’s billings. With cloud based software/ CRM systems and ever-increasing advancements in technology, your recruiters can now conduct business from pretty much anywhere in the world, providing you give them the access to do so. Surveys have shown that a whopping 53% of employees feel that they would be more productive if they could work outside of the office. Does it really make a huge difference to you whether your consultant billed £50k from the office or £50k from their front room whilst watching the kids?
  • Increased feeling of control and responsibility concerning work. At the end of the day, your consultants are not children and should realistically be able to manage their own time and workload, no matter their location. Allowing your employees to control their own timetable and work environment should provide them with a sense of responsibility and professionalism that will boost their mood and increase sales. As long as you are setting appropriate boundaries and targets, and monitoring the work being produced by your staff, you should see them benefiting from flexible working whilst boosting sales.

And what about your agency – what benefits could you expect to see?

  • You should see a rise in employee morale and commitment to the company. If your consultants feel like you care about them and their lives outside of work, they will feel much more committed to the company and it will likely go a long way to helping with staff retention. This should reduce staff turnover and stop you from losing valued members of your team. Studies have also shown that the introduction of a flexi working scheme has seen a reduction in the amount of ‘sick’ days taken by staff, as well as a fall in employees being late for work.
  • Increased productivity and better service – and therefore an increase in your bottom line. Allowing your consultants to work when they feel most fresh and alert should mean they are able to achieve better results, which is exactly what you as a director are looking for. Furthermore, this type of scheme could be of great benefit to your clients, especially if they are overseas as time differences often mean that consultants are having to work outside of regular set business hours in order to catch their international contacts. With flexi working, this could no longer be a problem as your consultants could make their work schedule fit around the all-important clients that they are trying to close deals with at that time.

As you can see, there are several reasons across the board that show why flexi working can be a real game changer for your agency. Like with all things, it does have its drawbacks. The obvious disadvantage is that as an employer there needs to be the element of trust that if your employees are working from home they are actually working and not binging Netflix whilst answering the odd email. Flexi working has also been known to cause some discord amongst other employees as they can often feel that those working from home aren’t necessarily working as hard as they are because they cannot visually see them working and therefore can’t measure their progress. There are also some other disadvantages to consider. For example, if you’re allowing your employees the flexibility to be able to leave early every so often for the school run, should they be showing you the same courtesy and taking that urgent phone call from you in the evening? With flexi working it can be much harder to distinguish boundaries and routines – if you’re regularly chopping and changing your working hours then your fellow employees can’t always be expected to keep up. It’s also important for you as an agency to have an office presence. After all, what’s the real point of paying for shiny new offices if barely anyone is using them to work from?

Concepts such as flexi working really need to be tailored to your company as an individual. For example, if all of your clients work standard UK business hours, there is little point allowing your consultants to be working either very early in the morning or late into the night. If flexi working isn’t going to strike a good balance between benefiting your employees and benefiting your agency, it may not be the right option for you.  Ultimately, the decision to allow (or not) flexi working lies with you as the employer. It’s important to weigh up all of the advantages and disadvantages, and think about how these will impact on you as a business.