Let’s all Flex! Building a robust Flexible Working Policy

This year on 12 September was the first National Flexible Working Day (#letsallflextogether) led by Helen Wright, Founder of 9-2-3 Jobs. The aim of the day was to empower employees to ask for flexible working hours, as well as championing the benefits of working flexibly. There is currently a skills shortage in many organisations as a result of the nine-to-five plus expectations many employers have. Providing flexible working would help to bridge this gap. Flexible working is not just a “women’s issue”. It’s a way of working everyone can benefit from.

Telephone conferencing company PowWowNow conducted a flexible working survey in 2017. Their top-level findings were:

  • 67% of respondents wished they were offered flexible working by their current employer
  • 58% of respondents believed that working away from the office would help them become more motivated
  • 70% of respondents felt that offering flexible working made a job more attractive
  • 30% of respondents would chose flexible working over a pay rise, if they had to make a choice

Flexible working makes business sense. It improves staff retention, increases productivity and profits, and result in significantly fewer sick days. This has been verified by studies from the CIPD, Vodafone and UNISON.

Here are five ways to create a practical, useful and robust Flexible Working Policy that inculcates a positive working culture.

  1. Ensure you have a clear definition of what flexible working means to your organisation. There is often confusion with agile working and core hours being the essence of flexible working. When defining flexible working the three things to consider are: where staff can, could and will work.When staff can work, this could encompass core hours, annualised hours or compressed hours. Finally, how they could work i.e. job-shares, full- or part-time etc.
  2. Connect and relate flexible working to key staff policies. This will include recruitment, retention, progression, sick-leave, return-to-work review/appraisal processes. This ensures it’s embedded in all areas of people and culture. It should be more than a bolt-on or panic moment when someone asks about it. By including discussions about flexible working at every stage of someone’s career it becomes part of how things are done.
  3. Be clear and consistent about how staff can request flexible working. Staff can apply for flexible working if they’ve worked continuously for the same employer for the last 26 weeks. This is known as ‘making a statutory application.’ There does need to be a process in place, but it also should be as straight forward as possible. The GOV.UK website provides a comprehensive outline of the process. Use plain English and provide a flow chart to map out what staff will need to do.
  4. Check best practice in other organisations. Don’t feel as if you have to start from scratch when reviewing your policy or practices. Find out what’s worked well for other organisations. How have they promoted their policy and made it practical for staff? It may be an opportunity to host an event to bring people together to talk about flexible working and what’s worked for them. This brings the subject to life more, creating enthusiasm for the topic.
  5. Use your staff networks as critical readers. If you have staff networks then use them! They can provide insight as critical friends on the usability of the policy, how it has worked for them and ways in which it can be made more inclusive. They will want the best for the organisation and using their expertise is more likely to gain buy-in from the whole organisation.

Thinking holistically about flexible working and making the process as simple as possible is more likely to create a positive flexible working culture. Remember #letsallflextogether. How does flexible working operate in your organisation? Have you had a positive experience? As always let me know what you think by commenting below. If you want to know more about the support Diverse Minds can provide with flexible working you can find more information here: https://diverseminds.co.uk/solutions.

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