Don't Let These 6 Myths Stop You From Embracing Flexible Working


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

If you've been put off adopting flexible working by some of these common misconceptions, it might be time to recalibrate your thinking.

Article 4 Minutes
Don't Let These 6 Myths Stop You From Embracing Flexible Working

Flexible working has become an increasingly common and important practice for employers and their staff in recent years.

Doing your job from home and having more control over your working times and methods certainly experienced a boost in profile during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, but these concepts were already on the rise before that unprecedented health crisis arrived. Research shows:

  • Prior to COVID-19, there were seven million people working remotely in the US
  • 43% of all US employees were already working remotely at least some of the time
  • The number of people working remotely has risen by 44% in the last five years

This growth reflects the fact that there are universal benefits to be gained from flexible working, such as lower on-premise costs for businesses and a better work/life balance for individuals.

Despite these advantages, some organizations still have reservations about making the move from traditional working models to a more modern, adaptable approach, often because of the negative myths that persist around flexible working.

Myth #1: it reduces productivity

One of the most common business fears around flexible working, particularly for managers and team leaders, is that productivity will immediately suffer if people are doing their jobs from home or being given more control over their working methods.

Research from Fuze shows that more than four out of five employees (83%) believe you don't need to be in the office to be productive.

On the management side, team leaders are likely to find that affording people more flexibility in how they work contributes to job satisfaction, staff loyalty and better mental wellbeing. Productivity will naturally follow as people will be driven to work and get results for a company that has shown faith in them.

Myth #2: everyone will flee the office

It's often assumed that, as soon as people are given the option to work from anywhere other than the office, there’ll be a sudden exodus and the workplace will be left deserted.

This isn't necessarily the case, partly because most people will acknowledge that there are always benefits to be gained from face-to-face engagement with their colleagues. A substantial majority (86%) of people surveyed by Fuze said in-person interaction will always be a valuable part of working life.

You could also find that lots of employees appreciate the sense of focus and concentration they're able to achieve in the workplace, away from the distractions they might encounter at home.

Myth #3: flexible working means working from home

It's important to recognize that flexible working and working from home aren't the same thing.

If you're concerned that a large-scale shift to remote working could cause disruption or jeopardize productivity for the business - possibly because of practical or technological barriers to effective home working - there are various other types of flexible working to consider.

For instance:

  • Part-time working
  • Term-time working (when employees have the option to take paid or unpaid leave during school holidays)
  • Job sharing
  • Compressed hours
  • Annual hours
  • Commissioned outcomes (which focuses on output targets rather than working hours)

Myth #4: it won't work for our business

While it's true that some business types and models are better-suited to flexible working than others, there are very few organizations that can't benefit in some way from incorporating more flexibility into their practices.

Many companies fall into a familiar way of working and assume there's no alternative to their established methods. It might take a truly extraordinary scenario - such as the coronavirus outbreak - to show that it's possible to work in a different way.

If you have your doubts about flexible working but you're willing to give it a try, you might want to consider running a pilot or a short-term trial to get an idea of how it could work.

Myth #5: it only benefits the worker

Your workforce certainly has a lot to gain from flexible working, but there are many ways for the business to benefit, too.

Firstly, you'll see an immediate financial boost because fewer people in the workplace at the same time means lower on-premise costs. You can also expect to see reduced absenteeism because giving people more flexibility can help them manage long-term health conditions and combat common mental wellbeing challenges like stress.

Furthermore, embracing flexible working can make a big contribution to something that has never been more important for ambitious businesses: a strong employer brand.

Myth #6: communication will suffer

The power and potential of modern technology means there's no reason why flexible working should lead to a decline in communication standards across the business.

Modern organizations have a huge array of communication tools and platforms to choose from, as well as a range of cloud-based data storage and sharing technologies that ensure people can continue to access the information and resources they need, wherever they are.

The abundance of digital communication options available to businesses these days should help allay one of the most common fears managers have when considering a shift to flexible working: loss of contact with their staff.

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