Flexible Work Arrangements You Might Not Have Considered

9 mins

Flexible working is a subject that has a lot of importance for employers and employees alike...

Flexible working is a subject that has a lot of importance for employers and employees alike.  This is unsurprising given that research shows it can result in employees having higher levels of job satisfaction and commitment and that it can make it easier for employers to recruit and retain staff.

For a lot of us, flexible working may bring to mind part time working or working from home but there are a lot of other ways in which employees can work flexibly.  In fact, according to the CIPD’s definition, flexible working describes a type of working arrangement which gives a degree of flexibility on how long, where, when and at what times an employee works [1].   That definition would include compressed hours, term time working, staggered hours, annualised hours, flexitime, job sharing and others.  In this blog, The Key to Flexible Working - Elliott Scott HR (elliottscotthr.com) we looked at what flexible working means in more detail but, in today’s blog, we’re going to look at some case studies showing how flexible working can work for various employees.

Case Study 1  

Adam joined the marketing team of a medium sized IT business about four months ago.  He has three children who go to a local school, and aging parents, who live close by.  Adam’s wife works in the evenings, and he has found that the commute home is taking longer than expected, which is causing problems as she can’t leave for work until he has returned home.  On top of this, his mother’s health has recently declined and he is keen to support both her and his father, who are struggling to cope with cooking evening meals and doing the grocery shopping.  

His line manager, Sheleena, has noticed a change in Adam’s demeanour and, after asking him if everything is ok, Adam has explained his predicament.  He’s struggling to manage all his commitments, but his job provides the main income for his family so he’s keen to ensure Sheleena knows that he will do whatever he can to make the job work.  Although Adam has not been in the business long enough to have a legal right to apply for flexible working, Sheleena knows he’s a hard worker and wants to help if she can.  They discuss Adam’s schedule and what might help him manage his commitments more easily.  Sheleena and Adam split his workload into two types – work that can be done when it suits Adam, and work that needs to be done at a time that suits internal and external customers.  They also look at what work can be remote and what needs to be done in the office.  They figure out that there’s about five hours of work which can be done remotely and is not time sensitive.  Sheleena agrees that Adam can do this work when it suits him which allows him to leave an hour earlier.  They also decide to trial shortened lunch breaks, which gives Adam 2.5 hours back during the week.  

The change in Adam’s office hours means that he’s leaving 1.5 hours earlier each day and he now misses rush hour.  His commute is quicker and him and his wife have time in the evenings before she heads off to work.  He uses the time gained from shortened lunch breaks to complete chores for his parents. 

Sheleena has noticed that Adam is happier and more productive at work, and there has not been any detriment suffered by the business.  Adam is keen to retain his role and grateful for the help the business has given him at a time when he needed support.   

Case Study 2

Mo works in the Finance Department of a large construction business.  Mo’s wife recently gave birth to their second child and is keen to return to her job as a dental nurse.  After exploring various options, both parents decide to speak to their employers about the potential to work part-time.  Mo speaks to his line manager and raises a flexible working request, asking to work 2.5 days a week.  The business is keen to facilitate this if possible and make arrangements for a potential job share opportunity to be advertised internally.  Claire, who works in the same team as Mo, sees the advert and decides to apply.  Her partner has recently retired and they are both keen to spend more time exploring the countryside in their new campervan.  Claire had considered resigning but would love to continue her job, and this opportunity would allow her to continue working but also spend more time away with her partner. 

The business discusses the request with both individuals, looking at workload, how handovers would be managed and how they will replace the time the business will lose from both employees.  After discussing responsibilities with the rest of the team, it’s decided that some of Mo and Claire’s work can be covered by other employees.  These team members will have time freed up by the recruitment of a new employee, who can cover admin tasks and data entry for the whole team.  It’s agreed that Mo will work Monday to Wednesday one week, and Monday and Tuesday the next week and Claire will cover the other days.  The team manager decides to move team meetings from Mondays to Wednesdays so that they are both included on a bi-weekly basis.

The business benefits by saving money, as the new recruit will be on a lower salary than Mo and Claire were on.  They have also retained two employees who may have otherwise resigned.  Mo and Claire have both achieved a better work life balance and really believe they work for a business that is interested in them as individuals.

Case Study 3

Sarah is a Solutions Architect who works from a London office but often travels to client sites.  Her partner has been offered a new job in Leeds and Sarah is considering whether she will need to resign in order to move with her partner.  Sarah speaks to her line manager and explains the situation.  They review Sarah’s workload and responsibilities and come to the conclusion that she does not need to be based in the office to complete her work.  They also look at the company’s client list to ascertain whether Sarah could work on more projects in the North of England where the journey time from her new home would be more reasonable.  Her line manager is keen to keep her skillset as recruiting a new Solutions Architect will be an expensive and difficult task.

Both parties agree to Sarah moving to a home-working contract.  Sarah stays employed by the business and takes on more work in her area.  The business retains a valuable employee and ends up with better national coverage for the team.

The case studies above show some of the benefits gained from being open to flexible working requests.  Employees will go through many changes in their personal lives, their hobbies and interests, and their family circumstances.  The more an employer can support them with these, the more likely they will be to retain valuable skillsets.  Being flexible with employees gives employers a wider talent pool to choose from and better opportunities to gain a diverse workforce.  It also makes it easier to retain employees, as they are likely to stay with an employer who understands their circumstances and supports them in their needs.

[1] Flexible Working Practices | Factsheets | CIPD