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.