As of this past Autumn, all employees in the UK now have a right to request flexible working options from day one. Company leaders must respond quickly and if the request is denied, give substantial reasons as to why (Forbes Sept 2021). As a business of any size, it’s now a necessity to consider your approach to flexible working. Flexible working can include hours different from the typical workday, compressed hours (same hours in a week but in less days), part time work, remote work, flexible weekly schedules, and many other options. This year, almost 4 million employees in the United Kingdom had employment contracts that allowed for flexible working hours, making it the most common flexible working practice this year (Statista 2021). But if you’re a small business, we know every role is a vital vein to the success of the business, so how do you embrace flexible working and make it work to everyone’s advantage?

Offer flex from the start

Advertise all positions from the get-go as ‘open to talking flex’.  This then allows candidates looking for all types of flex to apply (so part-time, full time with flex hours/ location, freelancers, jobs shares), which not only expands the job pool you’re drawing talent from but positions your business as a forward thinking one. It’s come to the point where offering flexibility is the cost of entry as a business.

Showcase your business as being flexible

Tell your own story of flexible working and share success stories of flex working within the company, even if you’re just a few people. Social media, internal communication and any external communication to clients/consumers are good places to tell employee stories, at the same time bringing a human, relatable side to the organisation.   

Fight the stereotypes of your industry

Every industry has its stereotypes, often based on outdated assumptions, which could be turning talent away. If you’re in tech, find opportunities to talk about the jobs that aren’t based on tech-related skills, but are transferable from other industries, potentially helping to increase the number of women, who are typically shying away from tech.  Also, find opportunities to fight stereotypes around who engages in flex work.  For example, champion men looking to spend more time with their children, those caring for elderly parents or those who have a side passion or hobby they are looking to spend time on. 

Create a culture of trust

You don’t have to go so far as dating app Bumble did by offering unlimited paid holiday but foster a sense of trust in your team by empowering them to make their own decisions around how they work within guidelines you set. For example, let team members set their own 8-hour workday within the hours they please, so long as they communicate their plans to others.  Championing the message that you expect people to get their work done, but they can decide how they do it can go a long way in building a trusting environment. 

Practice what you preach 

If you say you’re all about the flex, and are finding the benefits of flexible working yourself, but aren’t trickling that benefit through to employees of all levels, it’s eventually going to negatively impact the culture and ultimately efficiency levels within your organisation. Talent of all levels are catching on to the benefit of flexible work and you should proactively make this a part of your culture. In fact, there is proof that flexible working equates to improved engagement and job retention levels, reduced absenteeism and improved well-being, plus an increase in talent attracted to any one job position (CIPD UK).

Tech makes flex work

A no brainer, but ensure you have the tech in place to make flexible working work for all.  But also, ensure there are some guidelines in place. If some team members are working after typical hours, or working in a different time zone, set the expectation that people only need to reply when they are working.  Clear communication is key to make flex working work well, so find ways to ensure visibility on project status’ and team updates.

Evolve your email signatures

Sounds simple, but by having a standard response for employees to include in email signatures about flexible working it not only says good things about the culture of the company but ensures that clients and colleagues are kept in the loop that they may receive a response outside of typical working hours. I use this for example, **I’m all about the flex so I’m sending this message now because it’s when I’m working.  Please don’t see it and think you have to read, reply or action it outside of your normal working hours.**

Expand your recruitment approach

Expand your approach to finding talent and ensure you engage any recruiters on your willingness to interview flex workers and explore platforms dedicated to flexible working.

All in all, flexible working isn’t something to shy away from. It will not only increase your talent pool, by offering more options for work preferences, but also improve your appeal as a potential employer. It can also increase worker efficiency, through the establishment of a trusting relationship that results in a deeper respect for employers and a desire to want to do their best work.

Where you can find me

 Daisy Chain Website | Instagram | LinkedIn

 

Louise Deverell-Smith

Louise Deverell-Smith

About your author

As a former recruiter fed up with the lack of flex, Louise founded Daisy Chain; a platform connecting talent (at no charge) with flex-friendly businesses like Xero and The Ivy. 

 

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