In UK, employees have a legal right to request for flexible working hours. The employer, though not bound, should seriously consider the request. This right is part of UK government’s initiatives to bring a change in Britain workplaces by implementing more family friendly approach and greater work life balance. It is believed that such approach will result in increased productivity and greater economic growth.
Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD) gave a research back in 2012 that stated that 96% of firms were already offering some kind of flexibility to their employees. The Flex Factor; a report published by The Royal Society of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce, listed that 77% of UK businesses had flexible schedules and 50% of employees had employers that offered one or another kind of flexible working.
There are many advantages and disadvantages of flexibility. The plus factors are:
- It makes easier to attract more talent
- It improves productivity by eliminating commuting and poor meetings
- It saves office expenses
- It uses new and better communication technologies for project management.
Flexible working has been promoted on account of their cost savings, productivity rises and improved worker health with better work-life balances. A worker saves £650 annually if he does not require dedicated space and desk equipment in office. But flexible working thrives on technologies like audio/video conferencing, file sharing, screen sharing and other collaborative tools that help in efficient communication between teams remotely.
But like flexible work schedule benefits, there are some challenges too. It brings risk of work intensity that may overshadow work life balance. This means staying online; that flexible schedules require, will make it too difficult to switch to offline. You may end up working too much and ignoring home and family needs. This angle has also been presented in detail in The Royal Society’s The Flex Factor Report of 2013.
Flexible working hours can lead to fewer one to one interactions or an arguably less social culture in business worksplaces. It has potential of preventing work friendships and empathy with fellow workers. The principle behind this is that the less you see someone, the less you are likely to know his/her personal or professional issues and the less you are likely to care for them. Perhaps, unmanage flexibility will lead to sterile environment.
Badly implemented flexibility can lead to poor communication and chaos that will lead to resentment in employees. The risk is greater when you have some remote and some regular employees. The remote ones may feel less listened to, less appreciated or less involved in business. But used correctly, flexible work schedule benefits can lead to smarter work practices and increased productivity; as discussed above.
Breaking off traditional 9 to 5 work routine has brought greater trust and a greater likelihood of employing people who believe in getting the work done regardless of time and place. If implemented correctly, it can promote a greater team spirit and creative environment. The bottom line is flexibility has to be managed. It should be viewed as a business process that has its inherent challenges that need to be over come with smarter management practices.