The pros and cons of flexible working
5 MINUTE READ
Jennifer Jones Newbill, Director of Global Employment Brand at Dell, concisely expressed why flexible working arrangements are experiencing such a surge in popularity:
“Our employees have told us time and time again that they appreciate being treated like adults. They like to self-monitor, and that would include how they pace themselves, what times of day they work, where they choose to work from. The power of my team right now is that we’re global. We really bring a powerful collective by not all being in the United States, sitting in the same building together. If we were doing what we are doing with 10 people, all in the US, all in the same office, I don’t think we would be as cohesive and strong a team.”
Most employers now understand that offering flexible arrangements is part of a modern workplace. Of those that do offer flexibility, the types offered range from remote working, part time employment, compressed hours, flexible leave, job sharing, and career breaks.
Other employers who currently offer little flexibility cannot ignore the issue indefinitely. And it’s always best to address it sooner rather than later. But careful thought needs to be given to the pros and cons involved, particularly in relation to business concerns such as costs and productivity.
Larger talent pool
For those with in-demand skills and experience, there’s no shortage of job opportunities. For companies based in major cities, there will always be intense competition to hire the strongest candidates in the local area. Some businesses win and others inevitably lose out as there isn’t enough local talent to go around. Flexible working allows businesses to get around this problem by tapping into a huge global network of highly skilled candidates.
Lower office costs
Generally speaking, smaller offices equate to lower costs. There could be less need for computers and other office equipment, for example, and utility bills could also be reduced. With widespread adoption of flexible working across a business its possible to gain major financial and efficiency benefits. These come from downsizing or adopting practices such as ‘hot-desking’ – whereby desks are allocated to individuals as and when they are required.
Flexible working often means employee feel in control which can be very empowering. They can set up their work environment in the way that best suits them and works to a tailored schedule which boosts their output. Furthermore, greater freedom and flexibility allows for a better work-life balance. Happier workers are usually more productive and less likely to take time off sick.
How an employer comes across – to existing staff and prospective candidates alike – is critical to how successful it will be in retaining its most valuable workers and attracting new employees with key skills. Providing flexible working arrangements will help to convey the image that many 21st-century workers are looking for in their employer – modern, progressive and concerned with the needs of its employees.
Making the right judgements
Many employers are likely to find themselves receiving more requests for flexible working over the coming years. Not every request can be granted, and the decision-making process can be complex and difficult. If you find yourself dealing with conflicting requests, are there policies and procedures in place to help make the decision? It might seem rational to prioritise the needs of parents and carers when evaluating multiple requests for flexible working, but this could be seen as discriminatory against people who don’t have children or dependants.
Ensuring ongoing productivity
One of the big concerns many managers will have when faced with flexible working requests is guaranteeing productivity. How can you be sure that someone who has just started working remotely, for example, will be just as efficient and able to keep up with their workload as they would be in the office? This is partly a communication issue, which leads into the next point – when people are working remotely or doing flexible hours, their managers and colleagues might feel that clear, immediate communication is more difficult.
Lack of contact
There are many technologies and tools available these days to help co-workers stay in contact, wherever they are, but those of a more old-fashioned mindset might feel that there is no replacement for straightforward, face-to-face communication. As flexibility becomes a more common element of how workforces function, the onus will be on managers and business leaders to ensure that teams retain their cohesion and there is no impact on workplace communication, collaboration, and efficiency.
The benefits of flexible working are enticing. However special action must be taken to avoid the potential pitfalls. With such a wide range of technologies, new working methods and communication solutions available to employers today, there is no reason why flexible working can’t be a universally advantageous endeavour. But it’s crucial to think carefully about how you implement any new working methods, with the right policies and systems being put in place to guarantee positive results for the company and your employees.