Balancing Act: Could Flexible Working Work for You?

A woman reading to her child

Flexible working is a benefit that many employees rank as their number one driver to boost productivity levels. In fact, nine out of 10 people (89%) cite the latter as their key motivator, according to recent research by HSBC. It is interesting to note that the value placed on flexible working eclipses the appeal of financial incentives, indicating just how much it means to most employees to be able to dictate the shape of their working week.


Perhaps for practical reasons, it is the professional services industry that the study found to be most likely to give employees the chance to work flexibly. Notably, the research coupled this finding with the fact that this sector ranks as the most productive. In contrast, productivity was found to be lowest in the retail, hospitality and leisure industry. Here, one in four employees in the study received no opportunity to work flexibly – and were not offered other benefits, either.


Bearing in mind that 18% of employees admit to having left their last job due to having a poor work-life balance, today’s smart employer is the one who recognises the growing demand for individuals to have a say in their working hours. Not everyone wishes to work flexibly, of course, but global trends point towards people increasingly expecting to do so, from senior managers downward.


And in practical terms, technology has made remote working far easier for many, with software, such as Yammer, providing a private social media platform to allow people within an organisation to collaborate effectively. This can overcome many of the solitary disadvantages of remote working through encouraging the sharing of information and ideas. Secure Cloud services and web conferencing can also play a valuable part in bonding a remote team.


Finally, employers who recognise their workers’ needs and support flexibility will reap more loyal and less stressed employees, factors that ultimately boost retention and the bottom line. Deloitte’s Millennial Survey 2017 bears this out, finding that those in jobs where flexibility was the norm were more loyal – and that those who weren’t appreciated job security but wanted freelance flexibility.


Five ways to maximise your own work-life balance with flexible working styles


1) Home working: If you are focused, working from home can save you hours, as there’s no commute (or associated costs). You’ll need to ensure you can make video calls, have a decent wifi connection and be certain that any sensitive information is secure. Building in a morning walk before you start your daily tasks means you a) get dressed, and b) can put yourself in the mindset of ‘going to work’.


2) Co-working spaces/hubs: Many locations have a variety of modern workspaces that are geared towards those who work flexibly on a regular or ad-hoc manner. If you don’t fancy being home alone – or simply don’t have a suitable domestic set-up – the synergy of a co-working space can be beneficial. Working from a hub close to home could save on commuting time, while giving you the pluses of being in a social workspace.


3) Part-time hours: This can be a solution to working fewer hours if your job doesn’t allow you to work away from a particular site. Many workplaces offer employees part-time hours, or possibly compressed hours, whereby you commit to a number of longer days in order to free up hours, or even days, elsewhere in the week.


4) Flexi hours: Many jobs constitute periods of busy workloads and quieter times. This is where flexible hours that enable you to be at work – whether that’s physically or virtually – comes into its own. If your role allows it, flexible hours enables you to structure your working week so that you can factor in other commitments. Workplaces are legally obliged to consider a request for flexible working once you have been in a role for 26 weeks.


5) Job sharing: This can be a valuable way for companies to offer two people flexibility while fully filling a position. This can be especially valuable where a job requires individuals to be at a specific site. Effective communication, superb teamwork and a clear handover are critical to the success of job shares.





So, where do you fit in when it comes to flexible working? Answer the following questions to see how you might be able to inject some flexibility into your working day.


1. Does your job have any scope to allow you to work flexibly?

A) Sometimes – it depends on what is going on at work.

B) No, I need to be at my workplace to carry out my job but I’d like to see what options are open.

C) I don’t know.


2. What time of day are you most productive?

A) It varies and doesn’t always coincide with office hours.

B) I have fixed hours so can’t choose to work when I’m at my best.

C) I tend to go with the flow.


3. What is your ideal working day?

A) I value a mixture of quiet time and the opportunity to discuss matters with colleagues.

B) I always work where I am placed and have a fixed workload so don’t have a choice.
C) I’m fairly adaptable and can work wherever I am located.


4. Would you be happy to communicate with colleagues and clients using technology such as conference and video calling?

A) Yes, I’m very comfortable with communications technology.

B) My job doesn’t support this.
C) I would consider doing so.


5. Do you ever wish you could reduce your working hours?

A) Yes, I’d like to build in flexibility.

B) Yes but I work fixed hours.

C) Sometimes it would be useful.



Mostly As

Flexible working sounds like it could be ideal for you. It’s worth raising the issue with your line manager and/or HR team to see if you can build it into your working week.


Mostly Bs

Your working environment doesn’t lend itself to much flexibility but if you are finding the hours and rigidness too onerous, see if there are any opportunities for reduced hours or a job share. 


Mostly Cs

You are content to work wherever you are located but it’s worth investigating working remotely if, for example, you have a long or expensive commute, or you struggle to factor in childcare needs. Flexible working could well give you valuable extra hours during the week.


by Joy Persaud


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