Should Your SME Offer Flexible Working Hours?

The world of work is changing. Technology is disrupting traditional hierarchies in favour of increased collaboration, the demographics of the workforce are changing to accommodate both Millennials and Baby Boomers, and rapid globalisation demands a 24/7 work culture.

There’s a social aspect to this shift in work culture, too, with employees demanding a work experience that is more personally meaningful and reactive to their personal circumstances.

Since 2013, employees have had the right to request flexible working hours www.gov.uk/flexible-working and a Vodafone UK Study found that businesses can save an estimated £34 billion by embracing flexible working. But is it right for your SME?

Know your employees

In 2014, the costs of Sickness Absence in the British workforce were estimated at £16 billion. Offering employees the opportunity to work flexibly can significantly improve workforce engagement and commitment, boosting morale by improving the employee experience and creating a diverse and creative company culture.

To build the business case for flexible working, engage your workforce in a business-wide audit of how your employees need to work – do they prefer to be desk based, or would the flexibility to work from home or the freedom to work on the move improve their ability to achieve optimum productivity?

Attract and retain talent

Millennials now dominate the workplace, yet only 29% of them claim to be engaged in the workplace. If you’re keen to attract and retain the best talent, then you need to understand the expectation of Millennials who are driven by purpose rather than financial reward and expect to be equipped with the same technology they utilise for personal communication to drive their productivity and innovation in the workplace.

Flexible working helps to generate organisations that are flexible, creative and agile. Do you have the technology to promote and support flexible working? Could you move to smaller office premises and yet be equally or more effective? Shifting to new ways of flexible working require your SME to not only embrace the possibilities offered by technology, but careful modelling of employee and management behaviours based on trust and fairness.

Making the transition

Flexibility in work schedules is now considered to be the number one reason for employees choosing your company and it’s a useful recruitment tool. Whether you choose a compressed work week or a flexible daily schedule, embrace telecommuting or job shares, as an employer you need to be clear on expectations and implement measurable goals supported by a clear set of guidelines. You will also need to support and manage the expectations of all employees, and accept that for some roles and employees flexible working may not be appropriate.

Demonstrating that you’re a flexible friendly employer who understands the needs of your workforce and the work-life balance will help your SME to attract and retain talent and be far more agile and responsive to your customers’ needs, increasing customer service and loyalty.

If your SME can understand and negotiate the barriers to flexibility – a risk-averse inertia with a lack of clear leadership from senior management – then your business will be in a position to enjoy the cultural and economics benefits of a mobile and flexible workforce.