As the name suggests, flexible working allows employees to have a variable schedule and often lets them work from home for part of the working week. But there are so many different types of flexible working options - it’s essentially anything outside of the typical nine-to-five in an office - that you may not have considered all the possibilities.

The reasons for needing flexibility are just as varied too. Generally, flexible working accommodates people who have commitments outside of work, such as university courses or childcare. Anybody can request flexible working hours, and there are steps an employer legally has to take when considering this request. 

Who Can Work Flexible Hours?

If you do ask for flexible working hours, your request should be considered in most cases, if you’ve been working for the business for at least six months. With a few exceptions, the company you work for can only refuse your request if any of the following applies:

  • It will cost too much money to accomodate the request
  • Flexible hours will have a detrimental effect on the quality of work produced or performance
  • There won’t be enough work available to fill the time proposed to work from home, and work can’t be reorganised amongst existing employees
  • It would interfere with a planned structural change within the business, or require the hiring of additional staff
  • Allowing flexible hours would have a negative impact on the business's ability to meet customer demand

Employees are sometimes reluctant to permit a more flexible working schedule, as they believe productivity levels will go down. But there are actually a large number of advantages to flexible hours, many of which will benefit the employer as well as the employee. 

What is Flexible Working?

As mentioned above, there are many different variations of flexible working arrangements. The most common is probably someone working part-time hours, which may have been agreed in the original contract, or renegotiated at a later date. Other types of flexible working include the following:

Remote Working

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, remote working has become a lot more common, as national lockdown demonstrated that this could be an effective method of working. So much software is now online, so people don’t necessarily need to be in the office in order to work. And most businesses have found that allowing employees to work from home doesn’t negatively impact productivity. 

Remote working isn’t always a full-time thing - it’s quite common for companies to let employees work a few days from home, and the remaining time in the office. This can be a particularly appealing option for people with a long commute to work.

Job Sharing

As with flexible working, with job sharing, the name gives a good indication of what it entails! A company will employ two people to share a full time role, who can divide the hours depending on their personal schedules.

Flexi-Time

With flexi-time, an employee can work the hours that suit them. This is therefore a great choice for parents needing to do school runs, as well as anyone with a lot of commitments outside of work. 

Flexi-time is probably the most adaptable of all the options listed, as the schedule can be agreed on an individual basis, and be adapted as needed. Employees working flexi-time can also choose to fulfil full-time hours, or work reduced hours.

Annualised Hours

Rather like flexi-time, annualised hours allow a lot of flexibility in terms of when the work gets done. However, with this option, most businesses ask that the individual works ‘core hours’ every week, and then the rest can be decided at the discretion of the employee.

working from home, flexible working

Compressed Hours

The idea behind this is working full time hours, but compressing them into fewer days a week. So you might work a few extra hours each day between Monday and Thursday, and then have Fridays off. This can be a great option for people who have a full-time commitment one day a week, such as university tutorials, online courses or passion projects. 

Phased Retirement 

Not everyone wants to suddenly retire - some people would prefer to gradually reduce their working hours. That way, they can ease into retirement while still getting an income. Obviously this isn’t an option for everyone - you’d need to be approaching retirement age!

The Advantages of Flexible Working

When it comes to flexible working, the benefits for the employee are pretty clear. You can work the hours you’re able to, and not have to compromise on other commitments. Not to mention the fact that you don’t have to waste time commuting, so you should be better rested when you start work in the morning. 

For the employer, they’ll get a more engaged employee, happier in their work-life balance and in their role in general. As long as you keep an eye on productivity levels, there really is no downside to allowing flexible working patterns!

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