Flexible working is becoming increasingly common and taking on more importance for workers with each passing year.
Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in the UK has shown that more than half (54%) of workers now have the option to operate outside traditional nine-to-five office hours. However, there is still an unmet need in this space, with 68% of people saying they would like to work flexibly in a way that is not currently available.
US-based HR software firm Zenefits released a study showing that 73% of employees believe flexible work options increase their job satisfaction, while 78% think flexibility allows them to be more productive.
If you're considering the potential of flexible working to motivate and reward your staff, here are six specific arrangements that could prove beneficial:
1. Remote working
The rapid evolution of technology in the 21st century has made it easier than ever for people to work from locations other than their main workplace, usually their own home.
Tools like cloud computing, videoconferencing, instant messaging services and dedicated project management software enable your staff to have remote access to the information and resources they need to do their jobs.
Technologies like these also ensure employees can stay in close contact with their colleagues, even when they’re not physically together. This is vital to ensure that, while people enjoy the benefits of remote working, they don't feel out of touch with the rest of the workforce and the business doesn't suffer from any lapses in communication or cooperation.
2. Part-time/term-time working
Being able to switch to part-time hours (generally defined as anything less than your standard contracted full-time hours) can be a welcome option for employees when there is a change in their life circumstances - for example, if they start a family or need more time to care for an elderly relative.
Another possible arrangement, which will be less familiar to most than part-time hours, is term-time working. This can prove particularly appealing to parents of young children because it gives them the option to take on more hours during school terms and take paid or unpaid leave during holidays.
Flexitime is a practice that can offer significant benefits for individual workers and is relatively simple to implement for the business, as long as it doesn't impact or hinder your fundamental working practices.
Giving employees more freedom to choose when they start and finish work (within set limits) can help people fit their job around the rest of their lives and strengthen trust between the business and its workforce.
4. Compressed and annual hours
Moving away from outdated thinking about hours can be a good way to approach flexible working. Under the compressed hours model, for example, employees can reallocate their working time into fewer, longer blocks during the week, rather than being expected to do the traditional nine-to-five, Monday to Friday routine, which might be too restrictive for some.
Annual hours can provide even more flexibility. Under this system, employees have to work a certain number of hours over the course of a year, but can vary their working days and weeks within that time.
Job-sharing is essentially a form of part-time working whereby two (or possibly more) people share one role between them.
This approach can help to avoid the stress that often occurs when workers feel like they have a lot of responsibility to carry on their shoulders alone. Sharing workloads can release pressure on individual employees and yield fresh solutions to problems through collaboration and more diverse skill sets - great results for the business and the people within it.
6. Career breaks
A good work-life balance has never been more important. Providing the option of career breaks and sabbaticals is a good way to show employees that you respect their desire to have a life outside of work by giving them the time and freedom to pursue other things.
Career breaks might be completely unrelated to work (if someone wants to take a year off to travel, for example), but they can also provide professional advantages for individuals and therefore help the business.
Giving people time off for a period of intensive training, for instance, can prove particularly beneficial for the company, especially if you’re feeling the effects of growing skills gaps.