How Employers can embrace flexible working practices

A woman working on a laptop at a table outdoors
January 20, 2022

Top ways companies can pivot to a flexible working approach  

At 2to3days, we believe flexible working should be considered by EVERY company. Read on to find out why and how to go about implementing it in a way that fits your business culturally and commercially.

It’s well documented that flexible working has proven to increase company productivity and  profitability, as well as the health and well being of its staff. It is also a vitally important component in facilitating gender equality and inclusion, as well as driving talent attraction and retention. 

The technology is now readily available to support flexible working.  The covid-19 pandemic  has accelerated its adoption and younger generations entering the workforce are demanding it.   To stay competitive, to stay agile and to be able to hire and retain the best talent; implementing a well thought through flexible working policy is now essential to future proof the success of any organisation. 

Flexible working is a symbiotic relationship between the commercial and cultural aspects of an organisation.  The key lies in continuing to actively manage both as the organisation evolves. It also requires mutal understanding between the company and its staff about what is needed for both to thrive. Give and take is a two way street. 

Commercial aspects

Flexible working is a combination of where, when and how your staff work. 

Where

Where you work, can be all or some of the following depending on the nature of your role,  the demands of your clients & colleagues and the culture of the organisation. 

  • Office based

  • 100% remote working (telecommute) - telecommute means literally anywhere in the world, other than coming into the office.

  • Hybrid working - a combination of office and home

When and how

Are interchangeable,  so we have grouped them together. Summarised below are main ways in which an employee can work flexibly. 

Annualised hours

The total number of hours are fixed over the course of the year but there is flexibility in how they are worked. Someone might work shorter days during holidays, or work some weekends and take weekdays off later to repay the time. The employee does not necessarily have complete free choice, the employer can still set out a working pattern.

Compressed hours

Compressing full-time hours into fewer days by extending start times, finish times or both e.g. a four day week or nine day fortnight 

Flexible hours

Employees are required to be in the office for the core working hours but outside of these hours the employee has flexibility about when and sometimes where they work the rest of the contracted hours. 

Fixed contract/Project work 

Ideal for when an organisation needs a specific piece of work done in the short term that has a clear start and end date and/or over a longer period of time but not full time,  thereby enabling the contractor to work flexibly and or enjoy a portfolio career. 

Job-Share

A full-time role split between two employees enables employers to benefit from the expertise, skills, knowledge and enthusiasm of two employees for the price of one. There needs to be both a cultural and commercial match and ideally if one of the potential job shares is already in the company,  then involve them in the recruitment process.  

Term time only

This arrangement means that employees don’t work for some, or all, of the school holidays which are around 14+ weeks per year. The salary is usually spread evenly throughout the year resulting in a lower monthly salary but a consistent one. This arrangement can be a great cost saving to an organisation by reducing headcount where a typical workload is quieter over holiday periods.

Pay structure

No staff member should be penalized for working flexibly. Their pay should be prorated from the full-time equivalent that is commensurate to the marketplace and the internal pay structure of the organisation.  

Cultural considerations

The ethos and values of the organisation need to come to the fore for a flexible working culture to become the norm expectation for all, rather than the privilege for some. 

It starts from the top

If you can’t see it; you can’t be it. You need 100% buy in from the senior leadership team and they need to embrace flexible working. How this plays out in reality may well be different from junior roles in the company. However, the point is they need to walk the walk and not talk a good game creating one rule for them and another for the rest of the organisation. 

Open and collaborative communication

It’s about creating and fostering an inclusive working culture so that no one feels marginalised or given preferential treatment. A supportive culture that encourages the staff to challenge the status quo, provide constructive feedback enable you to create an environment of continuous learning, empowering everyone to learn and grow.  Start by canvassing opinions from your employees through a simple survey. Determine their optimal working needs and look to understand where and when they work most productively and whether the office based 9-5 conflicts with other demands on their lives.

Supporting and training hiring and line managers

Enabling hiring managers to talk about and offer flexible working from the first interview is to be encouraged. This enables the candidate to more confidently raise any requests or concerns they may have about being able to reach their full potential in the role they are looking to do. 

Line managers may well be managing a variety of work schedules. Therefore, it’s important that they receive the necessary training to enable them to develop their leadership skills. 

Let your clients know

Your clients or customers will probably sit along a spectrum of opinion. Some will already be advocates of flexible working and are only too pleased to hear that you have adopted this way of working. For others, they may still need to be educated. Either way, make sure you let them know and address up front any concerns that they may have around the execution of their briefs.

A supportive call out! 

As we all know, it’s hard enough to create and maintain new habits as an individual but when you are changing  where and how a team, department or whole company works,  the challenge is that much harder. So creating a supportive culture where it is OK to call it out if old habits relapse , will help to embed  the formation of new behaviours. 

And finally, to wrap up, lets talk about boundaries...

Setting boundaries

The wonderful thing about the ‘old way of working’ - when the postman delivered your post, technology didn’t exist meant there was no expectation of work being done outside of the office, 9-5 - Monday to Friday. Those days, along with analogue TV, are confined to the history books. 

We now live in  a world when everyone is ‘on’ all of the time, which has had significant impact on our mental well being. So it’s important that with a flexible working culture that you support your staff not to have to feel ‘on’ when it is their time to be ‘off’!  Just because a boss might prefer to work late and send emails to their staff, it's important that the staff do not feel under an obligation to reply until they are back working. This is readily resolved through creating a supportive, collaborative and open culture of working. 

For further advice on how to make flexible working work for your organisation, contact hello@2to3days.com for a free consultation.

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