The shift to flexible working as a ‘way of working’ is gaining momentum. Malaysia is the latest country to join the movement, having just launched a pilot project that aims to provide civil servants a balance between working hours and family time. While it’s not surprising that more countries are embracing the flexible working as their ‘normal’, its implementation is still clunky and there is a common misconception that a ‘one size fits all’ approach can be taken.
How to Implement Flexible Working
In many organisations the decision to be a flexible workplace happens at management level and then filtered down the organisation. Usually via an announcement on the intranet news, an update to the careers page of the website and with the addition of a couple of new sentences to the bottom of job vacancies. Voila, just like that the flexible working box is ticked off the ‘to do’ list.
Sound familiar? While this is one way of expediting a critical part of your People Agenda, if approached this way, you’re missing an opportunity to make a significant and lasting impact to your culture, productivity, employment brand and your people. This is because the process will have failed to include the most important part of your organisation. Your people.
The key to making flexible arrangements work is tailoring them to individuals. You need to consider what flexible working means to them and the value they get out of it. For example, there is little value in introducing a policy that allows people to work one day a week from home if the bulk of your people are Gen Z, living in shared flats without adequate spaces to work remotely. Equally what’s the point of introducing a four-day working week if someone would rather use the same 35 hours spread over five days, so they can leave early each day to collect their kids from school?
You should absolutely still have a flexible working strategy and framework that is driven and ‘lived’ from the top of your organisation. But communication is vital. You need to talk to your people, find out what they value, what motivates them and work out how to best use their time to maximise productivity. Only then can a company truly assess what suits the individual, the team, the business and the customer, to find the sweet spot in the middle.
If you’re feeling a little unsure about what flexible working options are available or what would be meaningful in your team or organisation, here’s a menu of possibilities to help get you started.
Types of Flexible Working
Hours of work:
- Flexi time / Adjusted hours – employees work for an agreed total number of ‘core hours’ and choose when their working day begins and ends.
- Core hours – hours (for example, 10am to 4pm) during which employees working flexi time must be at work.
- Staggered hours – different start and finish times for employees in the same workplace.
- Part time / Reduced hours / Job sharing / Job splitting – these options mean that employees work less than full time hours. To achieve this, the job is often redesigned and responsibilities split between a number of part time employees.
- As needed hours / On call / Casual – employees are on call and work hours as needed, either at home or in the workplace.
- Compressed week – weekly full time hours are worked over a shorter time period.
- Annualised hours – an agreed number of hours worked on a yearly rather than a weekly basis.
- Phased retirement – hours of work are progressively reduced until full retirement is reached at a specified date.
- Phased return / Gradual return – hours of work are progressively increased until a final schedule of full or part time hours is reached at a specified date. Often used by parents returning from parental leave.
Days of work:
- Weekday/weekend swap – employees swap working on a weekday for working on a weekend day.
- Shift self-selection – employees contribute to development of shift work schedules and choose own shifts.
- Weeks on/weeks off – working one or several weeks and taking one or several weeks off.
- Term-time working – working during the school terms and taking paid or unpaid time off during school holidays.
- Buyable leave – employees exchange an agreed reduction in salary for extra periods of leave over a specified period.
- Four-day week – employees who meet their weekly productivity targets are eligible for a paid ‘rest day’ each week.
Place of work:
- Tele-working / Tele-commuting / Home-working / Remote-working – all these options involve working from home or another location outside of the workplace on either a full or part time basis.
With so many options available don’t try to guess what your people want. After all, it’s not when or where the work gets done that’s important, it’s the productivity that counts. People with personalised working arrangements are more engaged and productive because let’s face it, who doesn’t love being in control of their time.