21 September 2012

Are Flexible Hours The Way Forward?


Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell worked in Ciphr's marketing team from 2012-2020.


Leadership and management Strategy culture and values


In a recent report from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, it is argued that businesses should be encouraging flexible working. Highlighted in the news by the recent London Olympics, flexible hours were granted temporarily by many organisations in order to ease congestion on public transport and the road network around the UK capital.

Why might flexible working be required?

There are many reasons why flexible working is seen as a requirement within the workplace.  From the age range of the employees through to the sector that the business works within. Of course, management need to be of the right mindset to even consider flexible working. Many flexible working ‘schemes’ also reduce costs for the employers and, as a result, can reduce the need for redundancy in the current economic climate.

Why is flexible working important?

If you were to ask a selection of employees the following question – “would you prefer to work 9 to 5, 5 days a week, or have the choice of flexible hours?”, many would answer that they would rather work hours that suit them and their individual lifestyle, but what is the rationale behind this decision?

Employees increasingly require more control over their lives, both in and out of the office environment. With the emergence of online tools that can link any PC or mobile device to the office network, the need to be in the office is becoming ever increasingly obsolete.
From the employers perspective, there is an increasing demand for them to become more responsive to workers needs and develop new flexible ways of working in order to retain skilled workers and maintain employee morale.

It is stated in the report that when businesses have trialed flexible working, the response from their employees has been overwhelmingly positive. One reason behind this could be that the staff are happier in their roles and feel that they have more freedom over their working and personal lives. As a result of this positivity, job satisfaction and productivity increased, while absence and disciplinary occurrences decreased. All of the aforementioned reactions concluded that this resulted in greater profit margins and increased agility within the marketplace.

There are a number of recommendations from the REC regarding flexible working that include:

  • “Businesses must do more to proactively train leaders and managers, giving them the confidence, skills and tools to lead flexible teams effectively, and empowering them with robust performance management processes and defined metrics.”
  • “Businesses must engage workers in designing flexible roles and reinforce to the whole workforce that flexibility it is not just for certain groups but for everyone.”
  • “Professional bodies must do more to demystify the processes behind managing a flexible workforce and assist their members in addressing the practical aspects by providing advice and information on employment law, regulation, health and safety and insurance issues, while avoiding a cottage industry dedicated to ‘flexibility’ training.”

What is flexible working?

As detailed by Business Link, there are a number of different types of flexible working schemes:

  • Part-time working – Workers are contracted to work less than standard, basic, full-time hours.
  • Flexi-time – Workers have the freedom to work in any way they choose outside a set core of hours determined by the employer.
  • Staggered hours – Workers have different start, finish and break times, allowing a business to open longer hours.
  • Compressed working hours – Workers can cover their standard working hours in fewer working days.
  • Job sharing – One full-time job is split between two workers who agree the hours between them.
  • Shift swapping – Workers arrange shifts among themselves, provided all required shifts are covered.
  • Self rostering – Workers nominate the shifts they’d prefer, leaving you to compile shift patterns matching their individual preferences while covering all required shifts.
  • Time off in lieu – Workers take time off to compensate for extra hours worked.
  • Term-time working – A worker remains on a permanent contract but can take paid/unpaid leave during school holidays.
  • Annual hours – Workers’ contracted hours are calculated over a year. While the majority of shifts are allocated, the remaining hours are kept in reserve so that workers can be called in at short notice as required.
  • V-time working – Workers agree to reduce their hours for a fixed period with a guarantee of full-time work when this period ends.
  • Zero-hours contracts – Workers work only the hours they are needed.
  • Home working/teleworking – Workers spend all or part of their week working from home or somewhere else away from the employer’s premises.
  • Sabbatical/career break – Workers are allowed to take an extended period of time off, either paid or unpaid.

As you can see from the above list, flexible working is not simply a case of allowing employees to work the hours they choose. With the above options available, virtually any organisation’s needs regarding resourcing are covered and this should enable the development of a flexible working scheme for it’s employees (as long as they comply with the law on working time).

The full report  from the REC can be viewed here.

Due to the way in which working hours are changing within the UK, many suppliers of HR systems are also required to offer solutions to facilitate client requirements regarding the recording and monitoring or their employees work patterns, such as Ciphr Timesheets.  Whether you are an employee within an organisation that is introducing a flexible working scheme or a manager considering introducing such a policy, one area to consider is how you will record and track the differing hours that are worked.

For more information regarding Ciphr Timesheets please contact your Account Manager on 01628 814060 or email us.