Flexible working is a term that covers a multitude of new and arising concepts. This includes working hours, remote staff and holiday entitlement, all of which are shaped via a range of highly developed technology.

The introduction of productivity enhancing technology, developed in the 70s, has changed the workplace. It is this technology that has facilitated the development of business practices, by increasing both efficiency and profitability.

As a result, new and old businesses in the 21st Century are finding that working flexibly can help them to reduce business costs without compromising on their efficiency or quality of service. What’s more, flexible working also allows them to sustain a successful business model.

What is Flexible Working?

Flexible working is an amalgamation of emerging ideas and new business practices. We can break it down into key areas…

Working hours

In 2011, zero working hour contracts grew in popularity following the late 2000s financial crisis. These contracts created an “on call” arrangement between employer and employee, where the employee had to agree to be available for work as and when required. This created a cheap and flexible workforce.

Earlier this year, flexible working hours was extended to cover staff who wished to request flexible hours. As explained on Fortune.com, “Taking an integrated approach to solving the challenging ‘work-life’ balance, this is emerging as an important component of a successful business plan and sustainable growth model.”

For more information on flexible working, check out guidelines on the ACAS website here.

Remote staff

Employees and employers are beginning to take advantage of working from home and on the move, through the use of connected technology. Employees have also come to a realisation that they can offer their services, knowledge and experience to employers anywhere at any time, leading to an increase in those becoming self-employed. In order to encourage talent to join or stay with a company, many are beginning to offer remote working capabilities.

Another important point, as stated on Flexibility.co.uk is that, “Businesses should adopt completely new approaches to where people work, moving away from 20th century factory models of work organisation. They should think of being able to work more or less from anywhere, and recruit the talent they need from anywhere without necessarily requiring relocation.”

Holiday entitlement

Flexible working can affect staff benefits, including holiday entitlement. If staff are able to prove they’re working the same, or more hours, should they not still get the benefits that they would receive if they were in the office?

This has been the topic of conversation recently, as Miranda Prynne reported on the Telegraph.co.uk, “Staff at Virgin [Media] will now be allowed to take time off work without prior warning but are expected to manage this so they stay up to date with all their work.”

This attitude to holidays has evolved due to flexible working hours, which are made possible by advances in technology, yet Virgin were not the first to adopt this concept. Richard Branson took inspiration from Netflix, which he explains on Virgin.com, “The Netflix initiative had been driven by a growing groundswell of employees asking about how their new technology-controlled time on the job (working at all kinds of hours at home and/or everywhere they receive a business text or email) could be reconciled with the company’s old-fashioned time-off policy.”

The technology

Workplace flexibility has been made possible through a variety of technological advancements that have led to a change in society and culture. Everyone now has access to affordable computing and vast amounts of information and data via the Internet. In an article by Alison Coleman on TheGuardian.com, explains that, “The key to this operational freedom lies in the wealth of communications and technology tools at their disposal, which range from web and video conference calling, to online document sharing and instant messaging.”

Businesses who are enabling personal devices for business purposes are seeing a 30% productivity increase. 67% of SMBs now view mobile solutions and services as “critical” to their businesses. Yet, there is still a long way to go, just as Jack Preston explains, “…we’ve heard detailed accounts of how co-working spaces, hot-desking, remote working and increased connectivity are all driving changes in employment, yet this latest research tells us that in reality 42% of office based workers have never been given the opportunity to work from home.”

Flexibility allows businesses to take control of their overheads by outsourcing, hiring freelancers, or those who wish to work flexible hours, while ensuring that they attract and maintain the top talent. Flexible businesses create a sustainable business structure and continue to grow.

Checklist:

  • Do you have at least two members of staff trained in each area of your business?
  • Have you identified areas of your business which are time consuming and could potentially be outsourced?
  • Do you support software that allows employees to share documents and data online?
  • Are your business tools and/ or software accessible anytime, anywhere?
  • Do you offer time in lieu, over-time pay or other benefits?

If you answered NO to any of these questions, you may want to consider adapting your business model in order to benefit from flexible working.

What are your thoughts on flexible working? Tweet us @Xperiencegroup

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