9 Points to Consider When Implementing Flexible Working

By Lindsey Newman

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In the first post of this three-part series, I looked at the benefits of flexible working for both the employee and the employer. From widening your talent pool to reducing staff turnover and increasing productivity, the plethora of benefits makes flexible working a highly attractive option.

Often the sticking point for organisations is how to actually implement flexible working as well as some deep rooted management assumptions about its lack of workability, particularly for certain roles. Whilst employers have largely moved on from the misconception that flexible working is all about employees wanting to work part-time, there are many team leaders that are still put off by the notion of managing team members working in a myriad of different ways. Herein lies the challenge and hopefully in this post I can help to break some of the preconceptions and offer some solutions to help you implement flexible working in your workplace.

Purple House recently held an event with a broad HR audience and it revealed the differing views about flexible working and where it sits as a priority within their respective businesses. Here's a round-up of some of the barriers I heard from employers and employees.

Resistance from employers and managers

Resistance from employees to working flexibly

Organisations reaping the benefits of flexible working

Despite some bad publicity for flexible working, for example when Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer took up the company reins in 2013 and axed home working in a bid to increase productivity and improve company culture, there are many companies that have managed to implement flexible working policies effectively and in a way that works for the business, management and the individual employee. According to research carried out by ILM, flexible working is now standard practice in half (50%) of the companies surveyed, with four in five managers saying they had taken advantage of flexible working at some point in the past four years. Amongst the 1,000 managers surveyed, 87% believed flexible working has been beneficial to their businesses in productivity and retention, 62% felt it helped them respond to their customer’s needs.

The Timewise Foundation which champions the benefits of flexible working and contributes to policy in this area, publishes an annual list of senior people working in all sorts of flexible ways for all sorts of businesses (the ‘Power Part-time Top 50’).  Their employers have proved that senior roles can be worked very successfully in ways other than standard full-time contracts and as a result they’ve attracted and retained many talented people.

Richard Branson is a well-known advocate of flexible working and has incorporated many flexible working practices into his business. He actively promotes remote working where possible and uses cloud computing technologies to ensure that he and his managers can remain in close communication with remote workers. He's also introduced the practice of unlimited leave!  Any employee working at the home of Virgin otherwise known as Virgin Management, or their non-profit foundation (Virgin Unite) are essentially entitled to take as much leave as they need. This level of trust allows employees to manage themselves. They still have KPIs and objectives and as such only take off the time that they can afford.

It's important to note that it's not only large multinationals that are successfully implementing flexible working. Technology agency Dadi has been ripping up the rule book when it comes to flexible working. They have done the unthinkable (which will probably become more commonplace in years to come), they got rid of their office! They now work remotely from locations across the UK, America, and South East Asia. By doing so they have drastically reduced their overheads and are now able to recruit from anywhere in the world.

SMEs are getting involved too. Broad Lane Vets in Coventry was crowned winner of the UK's most flexible small business. More than half of their 40 employees work part-time or flexibly, to cover complex shift patterns. The practice offers staff various flexible working patterns, allowing it to both deliver for its customer and for its employees to balance other commitments and interests. This flexibility has helped to foster a happy and committed workforce, ensuring the success of this small practice.

How to make flexible working work

For flexible working to be effective, consider these points;

Look out for my final blog on this topic where I’ll be exploring the topic of flexible working as it relates to external hires.

Written by Lindsey Newman, Director of Purple House HR, a niche recruitment consultancy specialising in the placement of Human Resources professionals. If you would like some advice on hiring an HR professional or implementing flexible working into your recruitment offering then get in touch:


0117 957 4100


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