Flexible working practices by Ksenia Zheltoukhova
Ksenia Zheltoukhova is an expert in flexible working practices at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Here we talk to her about what businesses need to consider.
Q: What are the key drivers behind businesses adopting flexible working practices?
A: Flexible working in some cases has become excessively associated with the needs of parents and carers. This is due to them requesting a change to their working arrangements. However, many employers have been proactively looking at opportunities to build on the the benefits of flexible working provision. Today flexibility is one of HR’s strategic tools to support effective business performance.
Q: What do you see are the top three benefits of flexible working?
A: Firstly, attract individuals interested in a good work-life balance. Employers who offer working arrangements tied to outputs they produce rather than time spent at work. It also opens up a much wider pool of talent, including those who wish (or need to) work flexibly.
Secondly, it enables better matching between business resources and the demand for services, and the ability to align workforce numbers with the ways in which customers access services, for example supporting 24/7 service provision.
Thirdly, cost savings. Flexible working can reduce real estate needs by introducing hot-desking or alternating work schedules.
Q: What are some of the potential pitfalls of flexible working?
A: Lack of trust is one of the key barriers to flexible working. The attitude of line managers and peers towards those working flexibly (e.g. from home) can prevent uptake of flexible working options. Communication about the benefits and realities of flexible working arrangements is essential to tackle any unsupportive organisational culture.
Also, there is a risk for those who are not ‘visible’ in the office. Perceived as working fewer hours leads to them receiving poor performance ratings. Even missing out on development opportunities and promotions. Align performance measures to output and not hours individuals spend at work
Q: Are there any legal or regulatory considerations that I should be aware of?
A: The ‘right to request flexible working’ was extended last year. This now includes employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment. This is regardless of parental or caring responsibilities. Employers have a duty to consider a request in a reasonable manner and can only refuse a request for flexible working if they can show that one of a specific number of grounds apply.
Employment contracts for individuals need to be amended by agreement to reflect teleworking or homeworking. If there is a trade union, it will need to be consulted to ensure that these workers are treated the same as other employees. Employees must not in any way be disadvantaged because they are working flexibly.
The same rules for health and safety apply to home offices as to conventional workplaces, so employers need to ensure that the office space and equipment are safe and that homeworkers are sufficiently knowledgeable about health and safety.
Q: Should I allow employees to use their own laptops, tablets or smartphones?
A: Staff should be provided with appropriate equipment to work flexibly (e.g. from home). However, some companies are introducing BYOD (bring your own device) schemes, where employees are willing to work on their own laptops, tablets and smartphones. There is a requirement of risk assessments of BYOD schemes covering the following: –
- organisational trust
- culture issues.
Clear policies i.e. data protection and loss of device(s), must be available to staff on the use of their own devices.