As a concept, flexible working sounds like something everyone can get on board with. What’s not to love? Flexibility suggests fluidity, ease of movement, an ability to change course as demand requires. But as with any working arrangement, there are pros and cons to consider. In this article, we look at the main arguments for and against flexible working in all its forms.
Who wouldn’t want to achieve a better balance between work and leisure – or better still, between work and real life? The UK’s Green Party recently tapped into this by proposing a four-day week. Achieving a healthy and happy work-life balance is certainly one of the primary considerations for fans of flexible working.
Whether it’s telecommuting, switching to part-time hours, enjoying flexible leave, job sharing or taking a career break, flexible working can get the most out of some people. People who would otherwise struggle to juggle their real-world commitments with their in-office workload, or who would resent being shackled to the corporate framework where everything from lunch breaks to screen breaks are assiduously logged.
The performance of your employees isn’t the only consideration, although it can definitely help you get maximum value from your staff. Their happiness could also enjoy a boost, making the workplace a more enjoyable place. Companies who offer flexible working are also appealing to pros active employees and may stand a better chance of retaining talented individuals. And that’s to say nothing of reduced energy consumption and waste, so the benefit is not purely conferred on the employee.
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As for the cons, well, managing staff who are not all working the same hours can present a number of organizational challenges. And what happens if one of your key team members is home-working? Email is great, and Facetime better still, but sometimes conveying instructions or attending a crucial financial meeting is best done face-to-face.
There’s also the risk of office-based employees (managers among them) viewing their home-working colleagues as slackers since they can’t vouch for their productivity – at least not in the same way. Resentment can grow, particularly if one employee is turned down for flexible working while another is approved, and there is a clear risk of disunity.
In theory, flexible working should not only result in higher morale but less absenteeism. Let’s face it, if you’re working five hours instead of eight, three days instead of five, or from the comfort of your easy chair in front of a MacBook, you’re probably going to think twice about crying off work. In any case, your health and wellbeing are likely to improve from flexible working and thus the chance of you catching a bug – say as a result of being rundown – is reduced.
Doing Better Business
We live in the digital age, a world of fewer and fewer barriers. There is so much that you can do online – communicate with people all over the world, invest your money, order your groceries to be delivered home and so much more. The days of working 9-5 aren’t over by any means, but there’s an increasing sense that to make the most of commercial opportunities, companies should be available out with regulation hours. For this reason, flexible working allows businesses to operate outside of normal office hours and, potentially, explore foreign markets.
We should also remember that some people are more productive later in the day. If working later will get the most out of them, wouldn’t it be close-minded to force them to operate within conventional business hours?
And what about redundancies? They’re a difficult a pill to swallow for all concerned: cutting the workforce is generally a sign that business isn’t exactly on an upward curve. By offering flexible working, a business can grow and save money on salaries without the need to lose capable staff.
Railcards, petrol, parking permits – commuting isn’t cheap. As such, there is a definite cost benefit to the employee of working fewer days or operating remotely. It goes both ways, of course: the employer can make savings on office rental and other ancillary expenses.
Are flexible working arrangements a good thing? Certainly, they can be – but they’re not without risks. Ultimately, it’s about coming to an agreement which is beneficial for all parties insofar as such a thing is possible. Weigh up the pros and cons and then settle on a set-up that works for everyone.