Why flexible working is the future (and should be the present, too)

Computershare has just been awarded a place on the Top 30 Employers for Working Families list in recognition of our progressive family-friendly policies and practices. We’re delighted. But it’s not just our employees with families who are interested in flexible working. There are lots of reasons why someone might require this – phased retirement, study, religious reasons, health reasons… And ‘family’ doesn’t just mean children. It’s estimated that 1 in 9 people in the workforce will be caring for someone who is older, disabled or seriously ill. Some employees will have multiple caring responsibilities. Suffice to say, we recognise that employees have a life outside of work and support our staff to achieve a healthy work/life balance. That’s not to say that flexible working is without challenges – there are plenty – but there are some huge benefits to reap as well.

Finding the right balance

We pride ourselves on being able to deliver excellent service to all our customers. For my Customer Service team, this means being available for our customers at the times most convenient to them. When team members work part-time or flexitime, and choose the same hours/ days not to work, it can be tough to provide enough coverage to maintain our high standards. Job sharing is one way around this. Two members of my team do this very successfully, but it’s not always easy to come to these arrangements. Another challenge is being fair to everyone in the team. It’s important that all flexible working requests are considered on their own merits and that other members of the team don’t have to absorb the workload of flexi-working colleagues.

A win-win situation which achieves great results

By offering flexible working, we’ve been able to recruit and retain some fantastic people, and get the best out of them. This has helped us get to where we are today, and will help us achieve our future goals. I’m not alone in thinking this – a CIPD report showed that almost three quarters of employers felt that flexible working had a positive impact on staff retention, engagement and employee motivation. Offering flexible working also allows us to be more agile as a business; we can match the level of resource to the level of demand at a particular time. For example, I have two part-time employees who choose to work extra hours during August and September which is our busy period. Also, a number of the team work from 10am to 2pm which fits in with school pick ups as well as helping to cover our busy lunchtime periods.

Looking to the future

The title of another CIPD report I recently read says it all: Future Proofing Business Resilience through Flexible Working. It’s tempting to shy away from flexible working, but that’s not sustainable: we have an ageing population, more and more employees will have caring responsibilities, and there’s more focus on work/life balance. Flexible working allows you to adapt to meet the needs of your employees, as well as the needs of the company. Put good practices in place now – support managers with organising resource, make sure information on flexible working is available to your employees, and design new roles with flexible working in mind. Very few businesses are at the stage where they can grant every flexible working request, but why not start moving towards that goal? There are advantages for everyone to gain.