As an employer, you will be fully aware that it is law in Great Britain (the law in Northern Ireland is slightly different) that most employees with at least 26 weeks of service have the right to ask for flexible working if they want to. For some employers, when this legislation was introduced, this could have proved to be a bit of a logistical headache and, even today, that could be the case for some firms.
But there are many possible benefits of flexible working hours for employers who fully embrace it as a way of working in their company. These days, employees who are not in the office are not necessarily absent or distant. Today’s technology means that even though your employee might not be with you in person, video calls and conferencing, for example, mean that you can keep in touch and discuss important matters with multiple people. Files can be shared, discussed and edited online.
Having a reputation as a company that embraces flexible working could be particularly the case for small and medium enterprises. In this article, let’s consider some of these benefits of flexible working hours for employers – a big potential plus for SMEs and startups – with a focus on students and graduates in your workplace, too.
What Is Flexible Working?
Flexible working can take on different guises and some employers might use one or all of these methods. This might depend on their way of working – it can be a big step out of a comfort zone to use multiple flexible working methods – or the setup of the firm and the work it does might simply not lend itself to some of these methods.
For many traditionally office-based jobs, however, embracing various flexible working methods could be very beneficial.
Flexible working can be:
- Having employees who work from home at various times.
- Having employees who work remotely. They can work from other places such as when they’re sat in cafes or when they are on the train or bus, commuting to work.
- Job shares. Having two employees who share one job, working a full working week between them, usually with agreed hours.
- Term time working. This allows employees with children to spend time with them in the school holidays and work during term time. There could be an agreement where the employee works some hours from home during school holidays.
- Part time. You might have some employees who only work a few hours each week, either daily, working a full two or three days each week or even having them work on a completely flexible basis.on a flexible basis.
- Flexitime. Flexitime is appreciated by employees who struggle to get to the workplace for a rigid set of office hours. This could be due to other commitments, wanting to pursue a hobby or just the impossibility of negotiating office hours commuter traffic in the morning and evening.
- Time off for important events. Big sporting events can bring on requests for time off or flexible work days.
What Are The Benefits Of Flexible Working Hours For Employers?
So, let’s take a look at the benefits of flexible working hours for employers, in particular in relation to SMEs and employing students and graduates.
Flexible working encourages dynamism in your business
Having a team of staff in your company who are in and out of the workplace at different times of day and working remotely at others means your company is always on the move. Staff and employers are not getting entrenched in a particular way of working. Because you are making use of the latest technology all the time so you know about changes and advances in this technology more naturally rather than having to learn about it separately. It’s a natural progression and keeps you on top of developments.
Young students and graduates embrace rather than fear technology and are attracted to companies that are seen as forward thinking.
Flexible working means you could have a more efficient and productive company
We all know how boring and stressful it can be, queuing up in the same traffic on the motorways every morning, only to know the same is waiting for us on the commute home. Likewise, those who commute to work by train have overcrowded carriages to deal with.
The benefits of flexible working for employers in this case means your staff are arriving at different times of day. Roads and trains are quieter so staff are less tired and stressed and are more prepared for their working day. Staff commuting by train or other public transport are also happier because they don’t need to pay as much for travel costs as they aren’t paying for peak travel times.
This more flexible approach to work – and the fact of saving on travel costs – can be attractive to students and graduates who want work life balance and a wage or salary that doesn’t get eaten up on travel expenses.
Flexible working benefits employers because it can mean more business opportunities
Employees who are out and about at different times of day can take hold of any unplanned business opportunities while on the go. This can benefit SMEs as it can perhaps help them can get the advantage over larger companies in seizing these opportunities.
Flexible working benefits employers because the workforce is more motivated
All employers want a motivated and productive workforce and flexible working can promote this. Studies have shown that flexible working means your workforce are happier and less stressed and this means you don’t have as much sickness absence to deal with.
Flexible working means employees can organise their work life balance more effectively and make more use of their free time. This is similar to the benefits of encouraging your staff to take their full holiday entitlement.
Flexible working means better staff retention
If your staff are happier in the workplace then this is one of the things that can boost your staff retention. Recruitment can be an expensive and time consuming process, especially for SMEs. Staff sticking around for longer has got to be a benefit for that reason and also for continuity in the business.
And if you have recruited some great students and graduates, you would much rather they don’t get tempted to leave because they have received a better offer elsewhere. Young people are citing job satisfaction as an important part of their work life and flexible working can be one of the factors contributing to that job satisfaction.
Flexible working benefits employers by attracting new recruits
Staff retention is great but all companies need to recruit new staff occasionally. Offering flexible working can make your company more attractive to potential employees. SMEs have the challenge of tempting the best students and graduates to work for them when larger more well known companies are recruiting. Having a reputation for flexible working can give your firm an advantage and help to tempt young talent to apply for your roles.
Flexible working can bring diversity to the workplace
Some employers recruit for culture fit within their company but others encourage diversity in the workplace. sometimes , opposites can encourage more dynamism in the workplace. A mixture of young graduates, interns, staff working part time because of family or other commitments, older experienced professionals looking to vary their working week. This encourages lots of different ways at tackling challenges and tasks in the business and can open your eyes to looking at these tasks from different angles.
Flexible working benefits employers because it fosters better customer service and customer loyalty
Not all customers want to buy your products or speak with you about your products within a fixed 9-5 time frame. Employees who want to work a flexible work week can deal with your customer queries and other business at times that suit both parties. This makes for happier employees and happier customers. Your improved customer service also means improved customer loyalty because they know you are around for them at various times of day.
If your company has a reputation for flexible working customers also appreciate this because consumers these days like to know they are buying from companies that care about their employees and the community. Flexible working shows customers that the company tries to take staff needs on board. You are seen as a progressive, forward thinking company.
Flexible working can be good for your company’s overheads
If everyone is in the office, at the same, working 9-5, then all of those staff need a desk or work station so you need the space and the equipment to accommodate them. This can increase your rents and SMEs especially can do without these extra overheads.
Flexible working can free up this desk space and it can also help diffuse any potential ‘office politics’ issues that inevitably arise when all staff are in the same place, all day, every day.
Flexible working can give staff more control
Flexible working gives staff a feeling of having more control over their work time and free time. This means lots of staff are more willing to work under their own initiative and are often more prepared to go the extra mile for the firm. Because staff are not just going through the daily motions, they are more willing to tackle tasks with more motivation because they feel trusted.
Flexible working benefits employers because there is more communication with staff
In some companies, employees can find management to be a bit distant but flexible working can solve that as it improves communication between employers and staff. As an employer, you know your staff’s needs and, in turn, they know what is expected of them. It encourages management to be more approachable so less distance between them. Your staff feel management are trying to meet their needs and are listening to their requests. If this is dealt with effectively, this means you have a happier workforce.
What About The Flip Side Of The Coin?
In an ideal world, everything would be perfect with flexible working and above are just some of the benefits to this method of running a company. Of course, there some issues that could crop up – with every set of pros of flexible working for employers, there is also a set of cons to go with it.
- Some employers might feel distant from their employees if they are not around all the time. This can make it difficult to keep up with certain tasks and have an effect on continuity.
- Flexible hours can be difficult to manage. How do you decide which members of staff get time off or flexible hours? How do you make it fair so that some staff are not left feeling unfairly treated? As an employer, you need to be very organised and clear about how the flexible hours work. There could be an agreed day or time where everyone has to be present in the workplace. Regular staff meetings can also keep everyone informed about company projects and keep everyone working as a team.
- Depending on the nature of your company, there could be some roles ideally suited to allowing staff to work from home occasionally whilst others require staff to be around at all times. How do you accommodate those staff who need to be in the workplace so that they, too, benefit from flexible working?
So, there are pros and cons of flexible working for employers but the advantages of embracing a flexible way of working for some companies could far outweigh the disadvantages – especially for those smaller companies who might be looking to attract young talent such as students and graduates to the firm.
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