You may have heard a lot about flexible working in response to the global pandemic and how it may change the future landscape of work. In this blog, we will discuss what flexible working is, and how it could benefit you when you enter the world of work.
What is flexible working?
Flexible working is the name given to any type of working pattern which is different from your existing one. Flexible working is not a new thing that has appeared as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. Flexible working has actually been around for years. It is commonly associated with parents or carers, who may need to adapt work around their responsibilities to children or other family members. Yet flexible working can also offer you other non-traditional arrangements outside of the traditional ‘9 to 5′; like part-time work, reduced hours, flexi-time and work from home.
Before COVID-19, attitudes towards flexible working practices varied. Some businesses were inclusive and forward thinking and had been practicing agile working for years. This enabled employees to choose how, where, and when to work, based on what suited them best. Options included working from home, and flexitime. Other companies preferred the traditional office-based 9 to 5 working day, with the idea of working remotely an alien concept.
Types of flexible working
Flexible working comes in many forms, some more popular than others. Common types of flexible working arrangements include:
Hybrid working – where you might work full-time, but only comes into the office two or three days per week and works remotely for the rest.
- Remote working – where you would work entirely outside of the office. This means you can live and work from anywhere.
- Part-time working – This would allow you to work less than full-time, standard hours.
- Condensed hours – This means you cover your standard working hours in less working days, e.g., four days could be 8am-6pm, and a shorter day on Friday.
- Job sharing – Two part-time workers share one full-time job.
- Customised working hours – Workers choose their own hours. Sometimes, times are given as a guide, i.e., hours must be between 6am – 10pm.
- Flexi-time – There are ‘core hours’ i.e., between 10am – 4pm. Outside of these times, employees can choose when they work.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of flexible working?
There are clear benefits to flexible or remote working. Employees can take fewer sick days and be more productive. You can also benefit from a reduced commute – something thousands of us have benefited from over the past year. More flexible or remote working can also ease congestion in our towns and cities and reduce our carbon footprint.
Working at home can also increase inclusivity, as it offers greater accessibility if you are someone who may find traditional working patterns difficult due to caring responsibilities or disability.
Are there any disadvantages to flexible working? Challenges of reduced hours or working from home include feeling isolated from your colleagues and difficulties in separating home and work. Working from home can also be difficult if you do not have the right resources such as equipment or software. It can also be harder to ensure effective health and safety. A mass move to more flexible or remote working also has the potential to reduce customers for retail and hospitality businesses. We have already seen news reports of hospitality employers struggling to recruit as a result of a drop in customer numbers.
What has been the impact of Covid 19 on flexible working?
The outbreak of COVID-19 forced businesses to adapt to working more flexibly than ever before. Businesses needed to adapt in line with social distancing measures and also because employees expected it. As a result, we have started to see attitudes changing towards flexible working. Some businesses will allow their employees to work from home permanently and others are adopting a hybrid approach to working.
Which employers have flexible working policies?
There are plenty of organisations, big and small, who have been practicing agile working for a long time. We can learn a lot from these organisations.
One such company is Unilever. Unilever’s chief executive has said that their employees will never return to a full five-day office based working week. Instead, they will adopt a more hybrid way of working. Click here to read about Ejaz’s experience as an apprentice with Unilever.
What is the future of flexible working?
Workspaces will change after COVID, as businesses require more flexibility.
The list of companies embracing flexible working policies is growing. Twitter has announced it is allowing staff to work from home “forever”. Facebook is also undertaking remote hiring. Other organisations are adopting a more blended approach to work. So, it is clear that remote work is here to stay long after the pandemic subsides.
Encouraging employees to work from home for some days and go into the office for the rest of the week will help businesses to adhere to social distancing measures. It also means that you can still get the opportunity to experience some face-to-face communication and socialising. You will still be able to avoid a long commute, at least not every day.
Where can you find out more?
Citizen’s Advice has some useful information on the different types of flexible working requests that can be made and your rights to flexible working.
Acas also has some useful guidance on who can request flexible working and how.
Why not read my NGTU article on starting your first job remotely?