New data reveals that flexible working structures in SMEs can help employers retain "higher levels of employee morale" and therefore, increase productivity and attract top talent. However, finding a way to accommodate this can be tricky if you're running your own business. Here are some tips that can help you craft clear, manageable policies for flexible working for your employees.
With their children back at school, many parents have returned to a familiar juggling act, attempting to balance their caring responsibilities with their working lives. For many, flexible working could provide a better way to meet the demands of family life while still making the same valuable contribution to their employers – but while the law gives every employee in the UK the right to ask to work flexibly, many are missing out. Data just published by the TUC suggests that flexible working remains unavailable to 58 percent of the population.
For small and medium-sized enterprises, accommodating the wishes of employees looking to work flexibly may feel especially hard. With fewer workers employed, organising staffing to meet the needs of the business can be more challenging. However, there are clear business benefits to meeting such challenges. Studies suggest that employers open to flexible working maintain higher levels of employee morale and engagement, lower levels of absenteeism, and improved rates of employee turnover. Operating family-friendly policies can also be a powerful way to attract staff.
The key is to plan ahead, with clear policies on how your business manages flexible working and addresses requests from staff:
- Think about what flexible working practices employees may be looking for – the term "flexible working" is very broad and might include anything from part-time working and job shares to requests to work at home or for new shift patterns. You’ll need to look at each application on its own merits.
- Develop a fair and consistent approach – you must treat all staff in the same way. It will be difficult, for example, to turn down a request for flexible working from one member of a particular team just because someone else in the team already has this right.
- Start out with a trial – if you’re nervous about a request for flexible working, one option is to grant the request on a trial basis. The rules allow small businesses to offer an employee the chance to work from home, say, for a couple of months in order to monitor whether the arrangement is practical.
- Make good use of technology – modern technology such as smartphones, faster broadband access, and smarter home computers will make it much easier for people to work away from the office, both in terms of their output and the contact employees have with one another.
- Show faith in your staff – if you don’t want to let people work flexibly because you don’t trust them to do the job, you probably shouldn’t be employing them in the first place. And if employees think they’re not trusted, there’s a good chance they’ll want to go elsewhere. While technology makes it simple to monitor people, doing so too closely will lead to division and dissent. Actions speak louder than words here – if you start, say, requiring people to clock on and off each day, don’t be surprised if they start looking for a new job.
- Don’t be scared – flexible working may not be as problematic you expect, particularly if you invest in technology. Modern tools enable you to put efficient, flexible working processes in place quickly and easily – work can be something people do, rather than somewhere they go.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. Remember, the right is one of request – employers aren’t legally bound to accept these requests if there is a legitimate business reason for not doing so. That might be anything from it not being affordable for the employee to work the way they suggest to the business’s performance suffering. However, if you do say no, be prepared to explain your decision clearly and sensitively.
This article was written by David Prosser from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.