Your comprehensive guide to implementing flexible working successfully whilst maintaining productivity and employee happiness
As people’s lifestyles change, more and more professionals are searching for jobs that allow them to prioritise personal commitments while also having the ability to work flexibly. The standard 9 to 5, office-based pattern no longer works for everyone and flexible working has arisen to offer some solutions.
As the name suggests, flexible working can be tailored towards each individual’s needs. For some, this might mean working from home so they can avoid long commutes, while for others this might mean starting earlier or later so they can do the school run. A key point is that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to flexible working arrangements. An even more important point is that all businesses should seek to implement more flexibility into their business model – and franchises are no exception.
As attitudes towards work change, franchises must work hard to keep up with the evolving needs of their workers. Indeed, they risk losing out on talent if they don’t and could put themselves in danger of falling behind their more progressive competitors.
What do the statistics say?
The media is awash with stories about the rise of flexible working, but what does raw data say about workers’ sentiments towards this practice? Know Your Money recently conducted a survey of more than 2,000 UK adults in full- or part-time work to find out what changes people want to see in their working lives.
The major takeaway from the research is the huge emphasis that workers place on flexibility: just over 70 percent of UK employees consider flexible working, both in terms of hours and location, as very important to their overall job satisfaction.
This was demonstrated through their willingness to take sacrifices in order to forego traditional working patterns. Three-quarters of UK workers, for instance, would be in favour of a four-day week even if that meant compressing five days’ worth of work into only four. Meanwhile, almost half (49 percent) of UK adults said they would be happy to sacrifice part of their salary – a fifth, specifically – in order to work a shorter week.
Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done to keep up with changing demands. At present, half of those surveyed said they cannot work remotely when they want or need to, with similar numbers (46 percent) saying they have no flexibility in the hours they work.
The benefits of flexible working
Contrary to popular belief, flexible working does not impede employee productivity or work ethic. In fact, it serves to promote the opposite by offering employees the ability to fit work around their busy schedules – whether that consists of childcare commitments, education, or pursuing a creative interest. So, while the biggest concern from most organisations is the belief that this new working structure would result in employees doing less work, in reality, a shorter week or altered hours is simply a reorganisation of time with output staying more or less the same (or even increasing).
The Chartered Institute for Personal Development’s (CIPD) recent guidance on flexible working highlighted a number of case-studies where employees (and, by extent, their employers) benefitted from increased motivation, creativity, mental wellbeing and productivity levels. What this suggests is that flexible working is a key driver for employee happiness and should not be overlooked.
How to implement flexible working
Shifting cultural attitudes
Giving employees the freedom to choose their working patterns can go a long way if due diligence is taken to provide comprehensive support systems. First on the list of priorities must be a cultural shift within the organisation. This could mean exploring different working styles to see how they improve general performance, before then using these as success stories to drive home the message that flexible working can bring a host of different benefits to the employees and the wider organisation itself.
For franchises in particular, it’s vital to ensure that values are aligned between the franchisor and franchisee. This is where the importance of awareness comes in so that both sides are attuned to the advantages on offer and free of misconceptions about flexible working. After this point, business leaders and managers can work together to identify logistical barriers that exist which might serve to deter workers from seeking out flexible workplace arrangements.
The importance of technology
Perhaps the most important considerations for any franchise embracing this new way of work is the judicious use of technology. Investing heavily in both cloud computing solutions and devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops is at the heart of facilitating this change and ensuring that workers can carry out their responsibilities whenever and wherever they need.
Communication is key here. If workers choose to work outside of the remit of the office, they must still be able to communicate seamlessly with their colleagues and employers and carry out their normal duties. What this means in practice is that businesses must dedicate time and resources to explore different solutions that will give workers the freedom to work from home, or outside traditional business hours, without becoming detached from their work.
Slack serves as a prime example of the countless solutions available, which allow employees to share files, data and communications remotely and without undue burdens. Of course, the way in which this can be facilitated will vary from industry to industry.
Don’t overlook the role of HR
We cannot discuss the transition to flexible working without exploring the important role that HR plays. Indeed, HR professionals must take centre stage when it comes to helping managers adapt to these trends and understand how to manage flexible and mobile workers.
This can be achieved through dedicated training sessions and on-going support to ensure a smooth transition for both employers and employees. At the same time, encouraging trials and experiments of new ways of working could help illustrate the potential of different working arrangements, and dispel any fears about the practice.
In order to classify as a progressive employer today, franchises must enable their staff to work in a way that they think will heighten their productivity and overall job satisfaction. Naturally, the methods in which flexible working is adopted will differ based on industry, however, the general trends taking place within the workplace tells us that franchises need to start thinking critically about how they can best support the needs of their workforce. A failure to do so might see talent transitioning to organisations that offer greater freedoms: indeed, Know Your Money’s research found that one in three (29 percent) of full-time workers have left a job in the past 12 months for this very reason.
Nic Redfern is the finance director of KnowYourMoney.co.uk