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How can I introduce flexible working arrangements?

How can I introduce flexible working arrangements?

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Retaining and keeping staff motivated pays real dividends to any business. More and more organizations are also looking to reduce costs and become more effective with the resources they have, and the Government is continually trying to promote more flexible working hours.

But is flexible working a viable option for businesses? With options including combinations of compressed hours, job sharing, shift work, seconding staff to other organisations, or even career breaks, it's an area that requires deep consideration for every company.

The business benefits of flexible working
Supporters of flexible working claim that, even in a downturn, businesses adopting flexible working practices might find that it is not a mere compromise strategy. In fact, it may bring improved staff motivation, recruitment and retention, greater customer satisfaction, increased productivity, reduced sickness, and greater cost-effectiveness.

As the number of organisations offering flexible working policies increases, you may find it makes you an employer of choice, attracting a more skilled and diverse workforce.

The considerations of flexible working
Despite its apparent advantages, flexible working is not something to be rushed in to. A carefully considered approach will pay dividends in ensuring a smooth and positive transition. These considerations include estimating in advance:

  • How will your quality of service be affected?
  • What will be the impact on service delivery?
  • What core hours do you want employees to work?
  • What success measurements can you put in place and how these will be monitored?
  • What equipment will distance workers require?
  • What will the impact be on employees who do not want to work flexibly?
  • What will be the benefits to your clients – and customers?

Implementing flexible working
Once you have answered these questions, there are a few hurdles you will need to overcome before implementing the new procedure:

  • Board buy-in – Step one is to have agreement and support at the highest levels. Convince your CEO and board of the business benefits.
  • Staff buy-in – This is by no means automatic if it is a process forced upon staff with no prior consultation. Take the time to find out exactly what your employees want.
  • Inspire managers – Managers may be suspicious that this is just a holiday in another guise. Make sure they understand the benefits and inspire them to motivate enthusiasm and encourage loyalty in employees working flexibly.
  • Start with a pilot scheme . Fine-tune your policy over the first three to six months. Make it clear from the outset that this a pilot period and that things may change if necessary to business needs. Encourage feedback from managers and staff.
  • Introduce guidelines – Detail what you have learnt over the course of the pilot period into a simple set of ground rules to help avoid confusion and prevent problems from arising in future.
  • Review regularly – Review progress against your goals and make any necessary tweaks to ensure continued smooth running.

If it all sounds like a lot of hard work for questionable rewards, remember that well implemented flexible working might not only passively help your company ride out the recession – it might also actively enhance its performance.

Discuss this issue on The Employer Forum.