Flexible working – the way forward or an employer’s worst nightmare?

Since 30th June 2014, the right to request flexible working has been in place for all staff, regardless of whether they have dependents or not.  At the time, there was concern amongst some employers that the floodgates would open and they would be inundated with flexible working requests while many employees simultaneously relished the opportunity to change their working hours to better suit their lives.  But is flexible working a good thing for business or does it cause unnecessary disruption?

On a positive note, flexible working can help you to promote a happier and more loyal workforce. Many believe it helps to reduce absence and supports employee retention rates. It can also enable you to create a more diverse workforce and encourage people that don’t fit the standard ‘9-5’ model to join your team.

For many employees, flexible working is essential in helping them to achieve a better work-life balance. And this in turn can reduce their stress levels and increase their productivity.

But for some businesses, flexible working can cause headaches. For example, when competing requests for flexible working are received, how do you go about deciding who to award it to fairly? Getting it wrong could result in resentment amongst those employees who’ve had their requests denied. And it’s important to remember that you cannot give priority to requests from staff who are parents or carers. Every request must be considered on its own, individual merit.

Equally, some employers believe that flexible working can cause employee communications to break down, inhibit the lack of shared ideas and affect the co-ordination of projects across teams. Others have cited that they feel that flexible working limits the control they have over their workforce.

Whichever side of the fence you sit, the fact is flexible working is here to stay. As more employees look to embrace this way of managing their working lives, it’s important to set out clear guidelines on how it will work within your own organisation. And if you get it right, flexible working and economic growth can go hand in hand.


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