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The advantages and disadvantages of flexible working for employers

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With constant coverage in the media, flexible working is increasingly becoming an expectation from employees, with concepts such as the 4-day work week being a serious consideration for employers.

However, it is worth noting that while flexible working considers the welfare of workers and employees, it is not always straightforward for employers to implement such requests and policies.

There are many things to learn about changing working patterns, and it’s important that the disadvantages of flexible working are considered by business leaders when implementing such patterns.

What is meant by flexible working?

When we say, ‘flexible working’, we mean an arrangement between an employer and an employee which determines the flexibility of: how, when, for how long, and where an employee can work, often outside of the standard ‘9-5.’

Flexible working can now cover many areas, including hybrid working and non-linear workdays.

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Do companies have to offer flexible working?

It is a legal right of an employee to be able to request flexible working, but an employer can reject the request on appropriate business grounds. However, an employer must be reasonable: first, by assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the working request, and secondly, by discussing the request with the employee themselves.

Benefits of flexible working for employers

There is no doubt around the advantages for employers when it comes to flexible working. We have seen this first hand through the experiences of the SME business owners we work with.

#1 Happier and more motivated staff

It’s a well-known mantra that happier teams are more efficient, productive, and innovative. By allowing flexible working within your business, staff will experience a greater work-life balance that works for them, which will have a knock-on effect to the feel and culture of your work environment.

Leaders can always improve their employee motivation and flexible working is one way to do that. Plus, it means as a leader, you can look to find the right work-life balance for you too.

#2 Improved retention

With this happier workforce, you’re likely to see better retention stats. As the UK job market changes, and other employers offer more flexible working, employees may get tempted to jump ship. Therefore, by acknowledging and granting any flexible working requests, you’re less likely to lose your best talent. Remember, this also means less money is spent on finding their replacement.

#3 Stronger recruitment

Talking of recruitment, providing flexible working options will help to attract the best talent too. This is a big consideration for an effective recruitment process. By building a strong business culture and reflecting your values through the greater flexibility you provide for your staff, you are likely to see higher-quality applicants coming your way.

#4 Increased performance

This is a big advantage to flexible working for employers. Once you’ve got a more motivated workforce, who are loyal to your company, and you’re attracting high-quality people to your team, you’re likely to see your business performing better than ever before. This can mean greater sales, improved cashflow and stronger business growth.

Flexible working guide

Disadvantages of flexible working for employers

#1 Reduced morale for some staff

Depending on how your business operates, not all your staff will be able to have the same level of flexibility. For example, someone who works in manufacturing might not have the ability to work at home as much as a project manager.

Therefore, before making allowances for different members of staff, consider how this might affect others in terms of their motivation and morale. The best way to address this is to talk to those staff and see what would make life easier for them (such as variable hours) and decide whether you can grant those requests for their area of work.

#2 Potential reduction in output

When considering flexible working options such as reduced hours and the four-day week, there is a potential that your business output will decrease. This can have several knock-on effects such as negative customer experiences, lack of cover, decreasing sales and performance, lost business opportunities and increased pressure on staff.

We recommend that you measure the business impact of flexible working policies carefully, maybe even considering ‘pilots’ of certain initiatives.

#3 Greater need for trust

At TAB, we always emphasise the importance of building a trusting culture within a business. However, there are occasions where leaders feel they can struggle to trust staff, and this could be seen as a disadvantage to flexible working. You will need to be prepared to trust staff to do their required hours and maintain their standard of working, especially when operating from home.

#4 Resource management issues

Another disadvantage to flexible working for employers is the extra resource management it creates. There needs to be a system in place to make sure all important business operations are covered when they need to be. Without doing so, customer and client experiences can suffer, leading to reduced loyalty, sales, and performance.

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Conclusion

In most cases, you will find that the positives of a flexible working request far outweigh the negatives. Within reason, you should look at ways to make it work but if it’s not possible, share your concerns. Be open and honest with staff and remain open-minded about the possible options.

We also recommend taking advice from others who are experiencing similar requests, such as other business owners like yourself. A peer advisory board would be a safe space to discuss your challenge with like-minded people who can offer impartial advice that carries with it a desire to find the best choice for you, your business, and your staff.

Flexible working guide

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