Balancing Post-pandemic Flexible Working for SMEs and their employees

Flexible working is here to stay, but how do SMEs go about striking the right balance between being flexible with their employees and making sure that working hours are defined and structured in order to meet organisational targets?

The last 18 months has offered employees different types of working structures; home-based working, flexible hours that focus more on output rather than the number of hours worked, and now the move to a new hybrid model of both home and office working. 

A poll of 1,000 UK workers, conducted by EY as part of its 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey, found that four in five wanted flexibility where they worked, and 47 per cent went as far as to say they would consider changing their jobs if flexible working wasn’t an option.

Maintaining a central workplace

Whilst an element of working from home will remain post-pandemic, it is important to try to re-establish a central physical workplace where people can meet for collaboration and teamwork.  This will help to build the culture and foster positive team relationships. 

Caring for your employees’ wellbeing 

Wellbeing has moved high up on the agenda during the pandemic. Employers need to be mindful of the ‘always on’ culture that has developed during lockdown and encourage employees to set stronger boundaries between work and home life.  

Trial new ways of working 

The hybrid working model is new to all of us, and it’s important that you don’t set anything in stone too quickly by changing policies without trialling them.  Employees have the right to request flexible working hours, and what works for one organisation may not necessarily work for another.  It’s about taking an individual and personalised approach to your employees and deciding what works best for them and the needs of your business. 

Try speaking on a one-to-one with each of your employees to get their individual thoughts on what might work for them but make your decisions by balancing organisational requirements at the same time. 

Be aware of discrimination

Many flexible working requests will be based around childcare arrangements. If the request for flexible working comes from someone without children, or a male colleague, and flexibility is not granted, this could amount to sex discrimination.  

Have a clear and consistent process for dealing with requests, ideally in the form of a flexible working policy which incorporates the statutory requirements and the principles from the Acas Code of Practice on handling requests in a reasonable manner. 

If the last 18 months has shown us anything, it’s that flexible working can be a success, so  long as there’s a balance between the needs of the individual with the requirements of the business. 

If you would like advice on how to implement a flexible working policy for your business, please contact us.  

5 tips to creating an office space that will attract the right talent to your SME

The key to attracting top talent to your SME goes far beyond salary and benefits.  Workspace satisfaction is high up on the agenda with candidates who are looking for their next role. Your office environment says so much about the culture of your organisation, the way you treat employees and how you communicate your values to the outside world.

Furthermore, the hybrid working model that many companies are now adopting is also making employees appreciate their office more. Many enjoy their 2-3 day stint working amongst colleagues, and look forward to working in a productive environment, so by investing in your office space you can help to attract the best talent to your organisation.

Here are five tips to creating an office space that people will want to come and work in.

  • First impressions count

Consider how you can make your company values speak through the design of the space. Everything from the colours you use, the signage on your door, through to the reception area and meeting rooms should showcase your brand values and give potential employees a taste of your culture.

Consider creating your own wall-art in meeting rooms or communal areas that tell a story about your organisation and its people.

  • Promote team building

The configuration and layout of your workstations need to allow for effective communication and collaboration. Desks should be configured in quadrants or small clusters so they can collaborate and easily share information. 

Introduce comfortable break out areas that will encourage people to socialise with each other and share ideas in a natural way.

  • Care about the wellbeing of your employees

Your office environment says a lot about how you treat your employees, and this is something that candidates are looking for when deciding on a role.

More offices are introducing standing desk workspaces so they are not tied to sitting in one workspace for the whole day.

Consider high desks with high stools close to a window so your employees can get a good “working break” and be inspired by the outside world as they work.

Introduce healthy snacks in the kitchen such as fruit, muesli and protein bars, to show employees that you care about their health and wellbeing.

  • Maintain a clean environment

The last 18 months have taught us the need and appreciation for clean environments. For instance, the toilets need to be cleaned at least once during office hours, depending on how many people use them, desks need to be cleaned at the end of each day. 

Introduce desk cards which indicate to cleaners whether a desk has been used and this will provide extra reassurance to employees.

  • Create a homely feel

Employees appreciate things that will make them feel calm and relaxed in the office. You should consider using furniture that is ergonomic but comforting.  Introduce a chill-out area with comfortable sofas and use lighting that is warm and as a natural as possible.

There’s been a great deal of research around the benefits of plants within the workplace. Plants add life, promote wellbeing and also look great.

So there you have it.  Our top five tips for improving your workspace to attract great people to your organisation.  If you need help implementing these, we partner with a range of organisations who can help make these things happen for you. 

Contact us today for a FREE consultation.