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Employers, it’s time to get flexible

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Despite being with us now for many years, the term “flexible working” still inexplicably has some negative implications for a few employers, who still only hear “working from home” and are wary of relinquishing control over their employees or are suspicious of a reduction in productivity resulting from staff watching Netflix all day. One of the main reasons behind this out-dated attitude is because 95% of the column inches devoted to flexible working discuss the benefits of it to the employee and not the many positives that it can offer to an employer.

For employers who have embraced flexible working, there are a number of clear advantages that put them ahead of their competition. Flexibility has moved up the agenda for these firms to become a key weapon in the war for talent, to attract and secure, as well as retain top talent. Some of the more common upsides of flexible working to employers include:

  • Working from home option – offering one day a week or a month as policy:
    • increases mutual respect and trust between employers and employees
    • increases morale, engagement and loyalty and therefore increases retention
    • increases productivity due to less commuting time and stress
    • reduces the number of sick days
    • attracts a wider range of candidates
  • Flexibility for working mothers:
    • positive affect on retention
    • attracts a wider talent pool
    • increases women in leadership positions
    • positions the company as an employer of choice
  • Hot desking:
    • rotating people in the office and home reduces the overheads of office space and required facilities
    • promotes a more integrated office culture
  • Flexible hours (starting early/late and finishing early/late)
    • taps into people’s personal preferences, getting the best from their optimal natural performing times, leading to increased productivity
    • extends the business contact or productivity hours
    • removes emphasis on punctuality
    • improves retention as existing employee’s needs change

Despite a recent report by the Confederation of British Industry that half of UK employers claim to offer flexible working, only 10% of job adverts ever mention it as an available benefit. Given that any employee of more than 26 weeks’ standing can legally request flexible working, and that very few jobs cannot accommodate some sort of change in hours, it is perhaps surprising that more employers are not actively championing flexible working. While some of the positives to the employer may seem minor or soft benefits, overlooked aspects such as a wider talent pool when hiring, should not be ignored.

In addition to these typical benefits, employers who realise the strategic importance of benefits in terms of attraction and retention are also discovering niche benefits and even creating their own unique perks to keep employees engaged and happy, including:

  • Gym time – a healthy body = a healthy mind, so an extended lunch break to hit the gym
  • Wellness – bringing in a nutritionist, chef or yoga teacher to offer advice and hold internal seminars
  • Dress code – relaxed in times of extreme heat or cold; or an on-boarding shopping bonus for new business attire
  • Volunteer hours – paid time off to perform charitable work
  • Extended maternity/paternity perks, including time off to attend school events, or even a “baby bonus” to help with the cost of a new arrival
  • Green cash incentive – earn more if you walk or bike to work
  • Concierge service – saving time on chores such as dry cleaning, online shopping returns etc

Does your company offer flexible working to everyone and do you and them take advantage of it? Or do they offer anything unique or interesting to retain staff? We’d love to hear your comments.