University research finds four key ways employers can make a success of flexible working
Researchers have pinpointed four ways that employers can smooth the transition to a workplace culture based on flexible working.
Jane Parry, a sociologist of work at Solent University, has written about the key measures that make flexible working a success.
She has pointed out that flexible working is good for employees in achieving work life balance. And, crucially, it’s good for employers in fostering loyalty among a workforce, reducing absenteeism, potentially boosting productivity and avoiding high staff turnover costs.
It’s also set to be a vital part of the workplace landscape as the workforce ages. Parry writes, based on her team’s research, “Flexible work is a key tool in creating more age-friendly and equitable workplaces.”
There are apparently over 300 ways of working that could be bracketed as flexible working. These include compressing hours, part-time work and working from home. However there are apparently just four easy steps to bear in mind when designing a successful flexible working policy.
Parry writes, “My own research found that line managers are the single biggest block on flexible work uptake. And even where flexible work is supported, too often it is assumed that managers know the unknowable and can just run with new working practices.
But without any investment being made in managers, flexible working arrangements are set up to fail. Alternatively, the buck gets passed onto the flexible worker to make a success of a new arrangement, giving him or her one more task for their workload, and one with a high penalty attached to failure – a stressful experience in itself.”
She suggest role modelling can help as well as giving managers access to success stories.
With so many flexible working arrangements available Parry and her team urge bosses to be open minded about what will work best. She urges companies to be open to many different ways of working. And she suggests there needs to be understanding that flexible working arrangements can be tweaked and reversed according to the employees circumstances and needs.
Instead of measuring hard work by simply being present in an office or factory bosses need to look at outputs. Our case studies of successful flexible working arrangements often cite trust as being key. Bosses that set clear targets and measure success by whether they are hit foster productivity and loyalty.
Parry added, “Companies (and managers) need to devise better measures of output: has a project been completed within schedule, did the team work well together, is the report of a high quality? These are much more effective yardsticks of success than whether staff clock in at 9 o’clock each morning.”
“Making flexible work available at the point of hire will widen the talent pools available to employers, as people who already work flexibly will be more likely to apply for positions where they won’t lose a valued part of their contract,” concludes Parry.
Polls have found up to nine in 10 workers either work flexibly or want to. “Employers who ignore this demand will be poorly prepared in the war for talent,” adds Parry.