Flexible working has been around for many years – although it really took off in 2020.
While it’s often seen an a “perk”, the model has proven to be beneficial to both – the business and the employee. It may allow some businesses to significantly reduce their office space – or eliminate it entirely, hire and retain a wider range of talent, and reduce absenteeism. Having a strict 5 day in-office policy leaves attendance and productivity defenceless to issues caused by transport, personal illness and injury, the weather or natural conditions, family emergencies and even just burn out or lack of motivation.
In turn, flexible working employees benefit from a better work-life balance, fewer commuter issues and costs, lower stress levels, and more autonomy and job satisfaction.
However, it’s worth noting that “flexible working” refers to a wide spectrum of packages, all of which differ somewhat – and it’s worth finding out which would be best suited to you. This will vary hugely depending on your location, the type of work you do and your lifestyle.
While these will vary, here is a basic outline of some of the more prominent types of flexible working, which are mostly broken down into location flexibility & time flexibility:
This generally refers to having the option to work anywhere. This may be at home, at a co-working space, at a café or restaurant.
Work From Anywhere (WFA)
Although this is often considered interchangeable with remote working, the difference is that many WFA schemes allow an employee to work from entirely anywhere, even abroad. This allows the employee to carry on their work while travelling or on holiday, and requires the employer to have a significantly more comprehensive processes in place to be able to operate in such a way.
Working from home (WFH)
Unlike the previous concepts, working from home suggests that rather than the office, an employee is working from within their own household – this often involves a work area within the home dedicated to this.
Some companies may employ a time flexible approach, setting core hours. This allows the employee to work flexibly outside of these, making their own schedule but allows structure, collaboration and easier communication. An example of this may be having the core hours of 12-3; whereby an employee must be working and available during this time, but may make up the remainder of their weekly hours how they see fit. This accommodates whose who may have family or childcare schedules, are studying independently, or have any other commitments or interest during the usual 9-5 hours. On the other hand, this improves team work and collaboration, as there is a specific time during which everyone is known to be available and reachable.
This allows an employee to work their week’s hours in fewer days – for example, instead of working 5 days for 8 hours each, they would be able to choose to work 10 hours, 4 days a week – leaving them 3 days off a week instead of the two they may have previously had.
This concept has been recently popularised by the trials of the “4 day week”. The idea behind this is that allowing individuals to work less hours or days at the same pay rate as a full time, 40 hour work week, will produce better results. The trade off in working hours allows for more motivation and more “focused” work in a shorter time, and has shown to have the same, if not a better outcome.
It is worth considering the benefits and disadvantages of flexible working, which will vary hugely depending on the type of work, location and lifestyle of the company and employee - but it's worth understanding the differed models and what may be offered before considering the implementation - or looking for a role that offers them.
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