How can you easily manage flexible working?

Although we live in an age where your ‘office’ is anywhere with an internet connection and ‘office hours’ can be any time of the day, the flexible working movement has stalled.

A recent report by the CIPD found that the number of people flexing their employment hours has flatlined in the past ten years – but that’s not because workers are turning their back on the idea. Far from it, in fact.

The appetite for flexible working is greater than ever; it is challenges with managing workforce logistics that are holding up progress. However, with the right infrastructure in place, companies can overcome everyday obstacles to easily manage flexible working.

Is flexibility more hassle than it’s worth?

Flexible working might seem like an unnecessary pain, but the benefits of offering it to your team can be massive. It plays a huge role in staff retention and loyalty; particularly as valued employees move into new stages of their life such as parenthood, where they cannot commit to the traditional, full-time 9-5 day.

Becoming more accommodating with your working hours boosts company morale, promotes individual sense of value and has a positive impact on staff attendance. If personnel can adjust their schedules then there are lower levels of lateness and avoidable absences, and less stress around balancing work/home life will boost attendance rates as well.

Giving your workforce greater flexibility also lets them choose the hours when they are most productive, to maximise their contribution to your bottom line. And on a financial level, you only need to pay employees for the work they do – so it’s cheaper for your wages bill too.

How to make flexible working work

Despite these advantages, undoubtedly many companies fear flexible working simply because of the practical implications. If staff are going to work different days and hours during the week, potentially from different locations, it could impact service levels and productivity if not managed correctly.

The secret to making flexibility successful – and simple – is good planning and complete transparency. If you’re relying on teams to remember everyone’s movements then it is bound to fail; you need a clear, centralised system for logging staff availability.

Investing in an online workforce management platform is a quick and simple way to track your entire company’s movements; shifts, meetings, annual leave, sickness and work from home.

The reason this type of software works so effectively is that everyone within your organisation can access it, albeit at different levels. Members of staff can log on to view at-a-glance who is working that day, and the reason someone might be absent – whether they are on annual leave, working externally, off sick or it simply isn’t a work day for them. This way, everyone knows exactly who’s in the office at any point in time, avoiding the confusing situation where work is set for someone who is actually off.

Creating a controllable chain of command

Centralising leave management also makes the process of reviewing and approving flexible working requests much easier.

Team members can file a digital request to move their working hours through the leave management platform. A notification is sent direct to the approver, whether that’s their line manager or HR, and an automatic response is returned to the employee when their request has been approved or denied.

To support this process, your company can implement guidelines on how far in advance flexible working requests must be submitted. While some employees will want to do set part-time hours each week, others may wish to fluidly craft their schedule around things that are happening in their personal lives.

While continually changing working patterns aren’t problematic in themselves, having a policy in place ensures that staff give you adequate notice, so it doesn’t negatively impact productivity. And the digital approval process means requests can be processed quickly, so the wider team knows ASAP that a colleague will be changing their hours in the near future.

Flexible working: from theory to reality

A recent Aon study found that 36% of companies have an agile working policy in place. Not only is this figure relatively low, putting the paperwork together is very different to making flexible working a reality. More companies need to make the effort to turn policy into practice, in order to reap the benefits of a flexible workforce.

The agile working mindset seems to be in place across most offices; what is currently missing are the tools to let staff choose their own hours. Migrating leave management over to a central online platform can overcome practical issues associated with eschewing the traditional 9-5 day, and avoid greater flexibility equalling greater chaos.

Managed correctly, flexible working is a really effective tool for boosting productivity, increasing commitments, improving loyalty and raising general workplace happiness levels. By embracing it you can get the best out of your staff, and by supporting it with the right technology you take away the pragmatic fear factor.

WhosOffice helps companies worldwide to co-ordinate staff movements with our online leave management software. Start a free trial to see how it works.


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