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Offering a variety of options for flexible working benefits your business

Updated 18th February 2023

We've had a fair bit to say about flexible work here at Weekly10. Our points usually focus on why flexible working is so popular, and what benefits it has for employee wellbeing and engagement. But this time, we'd like to focus on how flexible working benefits businesses.

All the way back during lockdown, plenty of people thought the remote work boom would turn out to be a mere flash in the pan. But, three years later, it's impossible not to see the writing on the wall. Job flexibility. Your employees want it. And you're running out of excuses not to give it to them. But, lucky for you, this is a win/win situation. That's because investing in flexible working benefits employers in all sorts of ways.

The different approaches to job flexibility

It doesn't take a genius to see that remote work is the big one right now, given that it's currently the only option to keep many businesses running. But there are many other ways companies can offer flexibility to their employees that may have been a bit overshadowed lately, that will come more in to focus over the coming months. These include:

  • Part-time work
  • Job sharing
  • Compressed hours
  • Flexitime
  • Staggered hours
  • Annualised hours
  • Phased retirement

These arrangements can be incredibly beneficial for employers, by improving recruitment potential, productivity and morale, and reducing turnover. The flexible working benefits for business are certainly considerable, so let's take a look.

Remote work

We'll get this one out of the way first shall we...

Many companies across the world had remote-enabling technologies to thank for their ability to keep running during the Pandemic. Agile project management, video calls and file-sharing tech allowed businesses to weather the crisis. But, three years later, remote work tech is just as beneficial as ever. But, remember, managing remote workers is all about helping them stay connected and supported. So, remember to check in with them to keep an eye on how they're feeling.

But aside from simply letting us to keep going, remote work has a raft of other benefits. For instance, remote work means employers can widen their pool of potential applicants. Especially with fully remote positions, location stops mattering so much, and the opportunity to hire the best talent out there is maximised.  

On top of that, studies have shown that remote workers can be as much as 40% more productive than their office-based colleagues. Employees tend to be happier, less stressed and more engaged when working remotely. 

Remote work also shares a particular benefit with some of the other types of flexibility: It means employers can save money on office costs averaging around $10,000 per employee a year for US companies.

Part-time work

In sectors like the service industry, part-time work is so normalised, you'd almost forget that it's a form of job flexibility. A lot of us probably started out on part-time work when we were younger. While it can be a good flexible arrangement on its own, part-time work overlaps with some of the others, like job sharing or phased retirement.

Part-time work can widen your talent pool by improving accessibility. If your workplace has certain tasks or roles that take up a lot of time and attention, but they aren't enough to make into a full-time position, offering part-time work can improve your ability to delegate and maximise productivity. 

Part-time work is less of an investment for employers, so new hires are less of a risk. And, like small rocks in a drystone wall, part-timers help to shore up gaps in your shift schedules. What's better still is that if a full-time position opens up, later on, you could already have someone ready, willing and able to settle into the role right under your nose.

Job sharing

Again, not a new idea for many of you. Job sharing is when the hours and responsibilities associated with a single role are split between multiple people. 

One way this can come about is when two people are promoted to a shared position. This means that, when faced with multiple highly skilled candidates, employers do not necessarily have to prioritise the career development of one employee over another. But there are a couple of other ways this approach to flexible working benefits an organisation.

It can also put employees with out-of-work commitments in a better position to accept these job offers. This improves accessibility and potentially reduces employee turnover.

Obviously, like any flexibility arrangement, it's subject to certain practical considerations. For example, salary, holiday and other benefits are often split on a pro-rata basis. It's important to consider what's best for both employees. But well-implemented job sharing can be ideal for businesses to retain key talent. 

Job sharers can effectively coordinate things like time off, also minimising any potential loss of productivity. For example, some law firms assign multiple mid-level associates to the same case. Two heads are better than one, and you don't compromise client access.

Compressed hours

Compressed hours follow the logic that the best way to improve someone's work/life balance is to compress their work week. The reason it can appeal to employees is that they get an extra full day off a week. Typically, this is done by extending each eight-hour working day into a ten-hour working day.

Some critics of this approach point out that ten-hour days could be too demanding to be sustainable. After all, trying to stay focused for hours at a time can often be a recipe for diminishing returns. But it's worth bearing in mind that compressed hours have proved popular with employees. 

Ultimately, while compressed hours probably aren't for everyone, they're perfect for some people. So, don't forget the needs of the individual if you want to take advantage of flexible working benefits. Obviously, the main benefit for businesses here is that organisations can extend operating hours without incurring overtime.

Read this great article from Marketwatch for a quick summation of some of the best compressed/4-day examples. 

Flexitime, staggered hours and annualised hours

These are all slightly different ways of accomplishing the same thing: giving employees more control over the hours they work. 

Flexitime allows employees to choose when they start and finish, provided that they work certain core hours.

Staggered hours are when the employee works the same number of hours a day, just out of sync with the rest of the office. So someone's staggered hours might be eight to four, or ten to six. 

Finally, annualised hours are when an employee gets a yearly quota of hours to put in at whatever pace they see fit.

These options allow employees to structure otherwise ordinary full-time work around their personal commitments. 

Of course, the main benefit to employers is that it can boost staff retention and productivity. But staggered hours have the benefit of being predictable. That makes them useful for extending opening hours in much the same way as a compressed work week.

Phased retirement

A phased process means that rather than having a set retirement date, older employees slowly have their hours reduced. That means they can save some money before relying on their pension. This can help retiring employees maintain a sense of purpose while they decide what they want to do with their time.

But phased retirement is easily even more beneficial for employers...

One of the clearest flexible working benefits here is that phased retirement does a lot to help succession planning. Senior leadership is incredibly valuable for any organisation, and there's no replacing decades of experience overnight. Phased retirements mean employers have time to find suitable replacements. Meanwhile, the retiring employee has time to tie up loose ends and even show new hires the ropes. This can fit perfectly with the phasing of their retirement plans. The replacement slowly taking the reins as their mentor prepares to step down.

Why a multifaceted approach to flexible working benefits everyone

It's all well and good if one of these approaches jumps out at you. But to provide real flexibility to your staff and reap the benefits of what that entails, it's important to provide a range of options. As for which ones, we say you should choose based on employee sentiment.

While a compressed work week might be perfect for one person, it may make someone else's life worse. Or you might have introverted staff who would love the chance to work remotely. But it won't have the same appeal to your extraverted team members. After all, nearly 30% of workers would change jobs for the chance to work flexibly.

Managing remote, flexi or hybrid teams? Grab a copy of our latest best practice guide: Employee Engagement in a Remote Working World. Download your copy 👇