With employment rates in the UK the highest ever on record at 76.1%, companies more than ever need to be focusing on talent attraction and retention. With technological advancements and a push for more work-life balance, many companies are using flexible working as a differentiator to attract new talent. But what exactly does flexible working mean?
The offer of flexible working has numerous meanings and will be entirely different depending on which organisation is offering this. In general, flexible working suggests you will be able to spend some of your working week/month/year working outside of your office, possibly outside normal working hours.
The benefits of flexible working are demonstrable. In terms of attracting talent, having the option to give the busy commute a miss once a week, or to leave an hour early to see your kid’s sports day without having to justify your actions is a tempting prospect for a potential employee.
While the general idea of flexible working might draw in some potential candidates, the specifics of your flexible working policy could be a make or break factor in a candidate’s choice of employer. In a lot of instances, not offering flexible working, or offering a very limited policy will completely rule out some great talent who outright need flexible working for childcare, eldercare or any number of possibilities. At the World Procurement Congress, we hosted Women in Procurement panel session in which Neha Shah, president and cofounder at GEP Worldwide, shared the importance of creating a ‘don’t assume’ culture. Shah meant that setting up rigid policies is not enough – instead, managers need to talk with their team members on a one-to-one basis to ensure they offer the right working options for each individual. What works well for some might be completely inconvenient for others.
I’m sure at least some of you are thinking this sounds great in theory, but how do I know what my team are up to if they are out of the office frequently? The reality is there are just as many distractions in an office as there are in, say, a café, or someone’s living room. Research shows workplace gossip, noisy coworkers and colleagues dropping by your desk are some of the biggest impediments to productivity, so it’s not surprising that more and more companies are finding those who work from home to be more productive team members. If someone really wants to procrastinate, being at the office won’t stop them. You’ll be able to tell if someone isn’t working as the results won’t be there. If you can’t trust someone to work without complete supervision, why would you hire them in the first place?
With more than two-thirds of employers reporting significantly increased productivity with their staff working outside of the office, it seems like a no-brainer to introduce a flexible working scheme. The idea of ‘designing your work-day’ will improve the happiness and the productivity of your teams.