Today’s workforce is hugely varied and highly demanding, with a growing number of employees actively seeking opportunities that afford greater flexibility and freedom.
According to information from the Office of National Statistics, published in May 2019, 4.7 million people in the UK are self-employed, accounting for 15% of the country’s total workforce. The freelance economy has grown by 25% in the last decade, a huge upward spike which should alert UK based brands and businesses to the fact that many more of us are taking control of our working lives in a bid to find a better balance.
In order to attract top quality talent, many UK employers have chosen to offer more creative and flexible options, allowing employees to better accommodate family and health commitments. Such options also offer a range of benefits to employers, allowing them to compete with other businesses and brands in attracting and retaining top-quality candidates.
What is flexible working?
Flexible working is a term that has come to mean much more than just setting your own working hours in recent years, as more roles adapt to fit the needs of the individual, rather than staff moulding their lives to suit their work.
Flexible working now covers a range of different options which can be practised individually or combined within a role.
In contrast to traditional set working hours, flexitime allows employees to start and finish at an hour that suits their schedule – perhaps to accommodate commuting long distances or dropping small children off at childcare facilities. Hours can also vary from week to week, making the Monday to Friday, 9-5 grind a thing of the past.
Flexitime can also allow staff to condense their work into longer days, allowing for time off each week to attend to other commitments or enjoy some much-needed rest and relaxation. Flexitime might also include weekend or evening work if this is preferred.
The ethos and emphasis with flexitime are that when the work gets done is less important than how it gets done, the idea being that a better work / life balance and greater control helps foster a productive working environment which yields better results. It’s a great working practice for those with young families, aging parents or chronic health conditions or simply when employees want to explore other avenues aside from paid employment (perhaps hobbies or travel that enrich their lives and make them better rounded individuals.)
As with all flexible working practices, flexitime requires a strong element of trust between employer and employee, as the staff member won’t be clocking on and off each day.
Job sharing or work sharing is an arrangement in which (typically) two people are employed on a part-time basis to cover one role. Job share is a practice often adopted by women returning to work after maternity leave, as it allows them to retain their original position but take on less hours to accommodate childcare needs. Pay, benefits and leave entitlement for job sharing are allocated on a pro rata basis (divided approximately by hours worked).
For employers, there are many potential benefits to job sharing, including:
- Better quality of work or increased output due to a wider range of skills, experience and creativity coming from two people rather than one.
- Creating learning opportunities where job sharers can coach each other depending on their individual strengths and weaknesses.
- Applications from high quality candidates for your marketing roles, who may otherwise be restricted by family, health or other work commitments.
- Retaining great members of staff who need to accommodate life changes such as having a child or separating from a partner.
Job sharing can be hugely rewarding but requires a great deal of flexibility and trust. Having clear expectations and good communication is the key to successful job sharing, including agreeing how best to discuss challenges and when this should happen, how handovers should be managed and what happens when there are disagreements.
When agreeing job sharing arrangements, it’s important to have some overlap of hours to maximise continuity and consistency and minimise disruption to other team members.
Many more roles are now moving out of the office, with full or partial home-based working. Allowing for a home-working element within a role means that they employer does not need to provide as much costly office space and has the added benefit of reducing commuting time and costs for employees.
Home based working, if practised mindfully, can be hugely productive for staff as there are fewer distractions than in a busy office and the comforts of home may be soothing for those who find office life stressful. It’s also compatible with employees who have a young family, as they can be close to childcare providers or schools for picking up and dropping off children.
Remote work is performed entirely away from the office and can be a permanent or temporary position. Since the employee doesn’t have to come into the office at all, they can live and work anywhere around the world while performing their duties.
With more of us choosing to work on a freelance basis than ever before, many companies are now taking advantage of the top quality, self-employed talent on offer, cherry picking the best of the bunch to work with their business or brand for short or long periods. This type of arrangement enables companies to make use of great workers without incurring any of the costs associated with a permanent member of staff (holiday pay, sick pay, childcare vouchers, etc.)
With a remote or freelance working arrangements, video conferencing and making use of collaborative / team working apps are a great way to bring teams together from different locations.
Offering a range of flexible working options shows that an employer is thoughtful and committed to safeguarding the mental, emotional and physical health of their staff. It also opens doors to employ talented people who may be restricted by other commitments and can bring additional and exceptional skills to a company.