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Flexible working – does it really work?

11Feb Posted by Daniella Cottew

Flexible working has been raised as a kind of panacea for modern businesses. In today’s society everyone wants to find the perfect balance between work and family, but do ‘flexi hours’ actually help achieve this, or simply mean we take our work home as well? What’s more, does it really benefit the employer and what impact does it have on co-workers?

Flexible working dates back to the post war period when it was brought in as a response to carers having to look after the elderly and the sick. The 1990’s saw the idea really take off and in 2003 the government brought in legislation making it legal for employees to request ‘flexi hours’. But what does it actually mean? Flexibility in the workplace is about developing modern working practices to fit the needs of the 21st century. Both employers and employees can gain from flexible working opportunities as both parties can organise their working arrangements in a way that suits them. This enables organisations to adapt to evolving markets and business conditions and individual employees to find a good balance between their work and family.

According to the Office of National Statistics, (ONS), only 45.1% (18.6 million) of UK’s working age population work on a full time, employed basis. A further 27% (11.1million) are either self-employed or work part-time. In addition, almost 200,000 women in two-parent families with dependent children have re-entered the work place since 2011 compared with 185,000 who went back between 1996 and 2011. The increase, the sharpest in a generation, proves that flexi hours are becoming an acceptable way of working for both employee and employer. 

The workplace today

The world in which we live and work continues to change dramatically and work practices and businesses need to adapt to these ever-changing landscapes. The majority of returning employees are women who have taken a break from their career to have a family.  Often they feel out of touch, especially with the ever changing technology and reality of a tough and challenging economic climate. The good news is that advances in this same technology means this ‘re- engagement’ process is far more streamlined and simplified, even if a little daunting at first. This is where a ‘give and take’ approach comes in. An effective employee, whether working full time or flexi-time, must be up to speed with all the latest trends and technology. While a good employer must give ‘back to work’ employees time to re engage in the working environment.

So is this investment worth it?

Of course I can’t speak for every single person returning to work, but the case in favour of ‘flexi hours’ is a pretty convincing one benefiting both the employer and employee. Us flexi workers represent a very rich resource pool and one that shouldn’t be overlooked for potentially ‘easier’ employment options. In addition, new technology is facilitating flexibility and this should embraced for the good of all parties. At Sermelo, technology and expertise helps the business and employees stay connected and unifies all communications, which enables employees to work flexibly anywhere and anytime. Technology, when implemented successfully, can deliver sustained business performance and engaged employees.

I believe three things are essential for flexi hours to work - the right culture in the work place, the right technology and the right personnel.  While it’s great that many companies acknowledge the importance of ‘flexi hour’ workers, it’s also a skill for these workers to manage their work/life balance. Some of us can do it and some of us simply can’t, regardless of how many hours we are working. It’s getting this ‘give and take’ just right that’s the key here. Employers must facilitate it with the right culture and technology and employees must embrace it with the right mind-set and attitude. Only this way can trust be built and maintained.

At Sermelo, this ‘give and take’ is what makes the transition of returning to work so smooth. There is a work place culture that supports mums returning to work and our needs as a parent but also meets the organisational needs of business. Sermelo embraces the business benefits of flexible working and is proactive in retaining working parents who want to combine successful careers with being a parent. Happy, engaged employees can deliver a lot more than simply a good work environment.

Daniella Cottew
Daniella Cottew

Daniella is a corporate communications and crisis management practitioner with over ten years’ experience. She has expertise in crisis and issues management, media relations, and the development and implementation of corporate communications strategies at UK and global level.

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