The nine-to-five jobs of our parents’ generation are no longer the norm. A recent YouGov survey shows that a tiny 6% of people in the UK now work these traditional hours.
Over a relatively short time scale, the notion of having to sit in an office for fixed hours has started to sound terribly restrictive and old-fashioned. Indeed, more than half the workforce now works flexibly. Shorter hours, job-sharing and home working are some of the emerging trends that have become the new norm.
It’s something employers need to consider carefully. Aside from the legal obligation to consider every application for flexible working once someone’s been employed for 26 weeks, it could be the difference between securing the best candidate or not. In the same YouGov survey, the definition of a ‘good job’ was defined as the flexibility to work hours and patterns that suit them by 61% of respondents.
The origins of the nine-to-five day go back to the Industrial Revolution – when it came as a welcome relief to the traditional 10 – 16 hour days that people had been expected to work before that! Changing the practices that we’ve all worked to for 200 plus years isn’t always easy. But there are huge benefits to promoting flexible working practices in your workplace.
Benefits to Flexible Working
- When given a degree of control over their hours, employees show increased morale, engagement and commitment to their jobs and to their employer.
- Attendance levels are proven to improve. You’re likely to find far less absenteeism and lateness.
- When morale is high, and staff value the flexibility they are given, it drives down staff turnover – one of the largest costs to any organisation. People have increased loyalty and are more prepared to weather minor complaints if they are happy with their hours.
- Staff are more productive. It’s a truism that work expands to fill the time available and you will often find that someone achieves as much in 4 days as 5. If people can choose when to work, they will tend towards those times that work best for them. For example, if someone is a real lark, they may love to start at 7 am and finish up early.
- It promotes gender equality. A culture of flexibility begins to chip away at the types of issues that can prevent women from advancing their careers.
The Challenges With Flexible Working
There are challenges of course. How to foster a team spirit when only half the team are together at one time? How to change the attitude of old-fashioned managers who have trouble trusting their staff? And how do you ensure streamlined customer service when a variety of staff are handling the same client?
Technology can help hugely with many of the challenges an organisation will face. Systems such as Skype allow teams to meet face to face even if not physically present. High-quality CRM systems allow one person to smoothly take over from another. As for trust, that’s a training issue. Managers need to realise that the focus is no longer on the hours spent sat at a desk but on the outputs accomplished. If a person is achieving – or over-achieving – their objectives, does it matter where they sit to do that?
One thing is for sure, flexible working is not going away, so employers that want to thrive will need to embrace the practice and enjoy the benefits it brings to everyone involved.