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Flexible working - Pros and cons

Luke Barron
Working 9 to 5 is one way to make a living. However, flexible working is proving to be a far more popular option for both employees and their employers. The combination of new technologies, social change and a strengthening global marketplace has all contributed to a shift away from traditional working structures in favour of something a little less fixed.

This move away from convention has resulted in businesses taking a flexible working approach. According to research carried out by Ernst and Young, 82% of managers believe that flexible working is of benefit to business. As the study highlights, the main advantages it brings to a business include greater motivation, increased commitment and better employee relations.

Flexible working has been dubbed the future, largely because it benefits the business as much as it does its staff. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons for a business opting for this approach.

Business benefits of flexible working

Greater productivity

One of the biggest – and most frequently cited – advantages for businesses taking a flexible working approach is that productivity levels increase. This is due to a happier, more relaxed, less stressed workforce going about their tasks at home, or on the go, at times that suit them. There’s plenty to be said for staff who feel content – they take less sick days, have greater job satisfaction, are more creative, and provide a better service than those who feel unhappy. They also tend to stick around for longer so help reduce staff turnover.

Attracts new talent

Another benefit attached to flexible working is that potential employees see it as a perk; this is particularly relevant when hiring for highly specialised roles. As a business, you want to hire the best candidates out there. Failure to do so could mean the best talent ends up working for your competitors rather than you. The recruitment process is as much about a company selling itself to a candidate as it is about that individual selling themselves to the interview panel. Flexible working has become a must-have rather than a nice-to-have when talented job-seekers are on the hunt for new opportunities.

Saves money

Running a successful business is not just about focusing on the bottom line – but it helps to keep costs down whenever possible. Having some (or all) of your staff working from home can be a real cost-saving exercise. The overheads attached to a large office space can soon mount up. The space itself doesn’t come cheap – nor does heating, electricity or high-speed internet connection. There are plenty of free tools (such a Skype and Google Drive) that can help you stay in contact while driving down costs.

Disadvantages of flexible working

Competing requests

One downside is that employers may find it hard to deal with the number of requests they have from employees wanting to work flexibly. Employers must be careful not to lay themselves open to claims of discrimination (by only granting flexible working to parents and carers, for example). There is also a risk of creating resentment among staff when some are granted flexible working and others are not. To prevent this becoming an issue, employers need to make value judgments and be as transparent as possible.

Loss of control

Anyone who has ever managed a remote team will know trust is essential. Employers can end up feeling they lack control and struggle to see the bigger picture. For flexible working to succeed you need a system in place that allows managers to monitor performance and ensure output meets the required standards.

Less cohesiveness

While flexible hours are great for the individual they can mean that staff are not available at the same time during the working day. This problem can be magnified further if staff are working in different time zones. This may have a negative impact on the co-ordination of projects and meetings. However, this can be overcome by keeping communication channels open and ensuring the entire team is diligent about processes.

The future of flexible working

Flexible working doesn’t just mean working at home, it means employees doing their job wherever they need to be. If you decide that flexible working is right for your business make sure you give it the same time and thought you would any business strategy. Get it right and you might wonder why you didn’t do it before.

Read our related blog: Mobile technology - Evolution and predictions for 2016
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