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Posted January 24 2020

The Rise of Flexible Working

Flexible working is becoming a priority for many workers when negotiating new contracts or seeking roles. The number of companies providing flexible hours as standard is increasing, as is the demand for working fluidity in jobs that can justify its staff being remote or working within a core set of hours.

With the raised awareness of environmental impact from various output, the option of flexible working is something that has been praised for its potential in reducing carbon emissions. Not to mention a whole host of other benefits for staff and companies that utilise this ethos – more on that later. 

The idea being that when people reduce their commute, or eliminate it entirely, they lower their carbon emissions from either driving or using public transport. Winning. However, it isn’t that clear cut. There are contradictory reports that suggest that unless home workers travel over 4 miles via car, 7 miles via bus or 16 miles via train, they may in fact increase their carbon footprint from energy used to heat their ‘office’. Therefore, the remote working/green working argument may only be applicable to those who live far away enough from their place of work.

Environmental factors aren’t the only thing to consider when looking at flexible working. Mental health is something that is seen to improve when there is a level of adaptability to standard hours and location. There is a plethora of studies and surveys that indicate a fair percentage of workers said that their flexible hours had improved their mental health. Additionally, those with mental health issues have stated in high (40%+) numbers that they believed flexible working would improve their mental health.

Reasons for the improvement in mental state are plentiful with some of the most popular being; reduced commute time or being able to travel outside of the busy, peak hours that can cause stress and anxiety, being able to look after ill or elderly family members, childcare management and being present or on time for certain commitments, better work/life balance and more time for exercise and relaxing/socialising, higher rates of productivity when at work.

For the employer the benefits can be viewed based on the output and welfare of your staff, but from a purely business level there are other worthwhile factors. The cost of an office is a hefty tie, but with flexible working you can potentially reduce the number of people at a desk at any one time, thereby reducing the size and cost of your work-space. Furthermore, the apparent productivity level increase can only be a positive, although studies are still ongoing and current figures are from short term fact finding so are not conclusive yet. 

It is worth noting that many workers are quite content with working 9-5 or similar core hours and don’t feel the need for any change. So much of our societal conduct is based on an understanding of these hours being for work purposes and lots of people have worked out routines and habits based on this reality. Also, for those who work unconventional hours or shift patterns, flexibility isn’t an option, although there is an argument that this is, in its own way, a flexible style of working.

If you are considering offering flexible working to your team, then the exact meaning needs to be established and agreed between all parties. As a manager, you may get the most honesty from an open, anonymous survey to see, firstly, if there is a demand for such an idea, and secondly, how people would envisage this being implemented.

If you are wanting to negotiate flexible working with your manager you need to provide he benefits to them and your reasons for suggesting this proposal. Additionally, you should think of any objections or issues this could cause (friction with the team, manning the phoneline, opening up etc) and have reasonable, well thought out ways to overcome them so you have all bases covered. 

With so many jobs now being upfront about their flexibility, it has never been easier to search for roles that offer such conditions. The rate of popularity means this is also a great time to start discussions about the possibility of more time leniency from your current role if this is something that is important to you and viable.