What does flexible working really mean?
Most people think they understand all about flexible working but the term is still subject to much confusion. Flexible working simply refers to any working schedule that is outside of a normal working pattern.
This means that the working hours, instead of being repetitive and fixed, can involve changes and variations. It can mean the employee has variables such as when they are required to work or even their place of work.
As you can see, it covers a wide area. Almost anyone who has a variation in their working pattern is flexible working.
Here are some of the most common examples:
- Flexitime – This arrangement requires an employee to be at work during a specified core period, but lets them otherwise arrange their hours to suit themselves.
- Compressed hours – Here, employees work the same hours over fewer days.
- Annual hours – Employees agree they will work a given number of hours during the year, but the pattern of work can vary from week to week.
- Staggered hours – This lets employees start and finish work at different times. Employees may also take time off in lieu or take career breaks.
- Job Sharing – Job sharing is another form of flexible working and it is where a job is shared between two or more people. They may wish to work alternate days, half weeks, or alternate weeks. It can even be one person working in the morning and one in the afternoon.
All of the above are forms of flexible working and involve variations to the normal pattern of working hours. It may even involve working from home and not the office.
Employers and flexible working
In many cases a job description will clearly state whether it is a flexible working opportunity. However, there is no reason why you cannot ask your employer for flexible working once you are already in a job
Arrangements can be made if the need for studying or other circumstances arise. Furthermore, in difficult times, the employer may encourage flexible working to bring down their salary bill and keep their company solvent.
However, if you are in a highly sensitive or competitive environment – or you are being geared towards managerial roles, it is unlikely that a request for flexible working will be successful. At this stage of your career, commitment is all.
Once you have reached a certain position, such as a senior partner within a law firm, a top creative designer, architect, etc – the rules can change and a whole world of flexible working opportunities open up.
Changing to flexible working
If your request for flexible working is approved by your current employment there may be some legal changes associated with this move.
For example, you may want to agree a trial period to ensure it is working and this will have to be contractually agreed to protect your interests. It could even involve changes to the number of hours worked and your contract will need to state the new pay and holiday entitlement.
If you have agreed to job sharing, the work needs to be allocated fairly with both parties being aware of their responsibilities.
Remember, flexible working means keeping clear records of work and timings. While a lot is based on trust, clear goals should be laid out by the employer to be measured.
Flexible working today
Apart from ensuring a satisfactory work/life balance. Working from home, without commuting should save time, which can valuably be spent training or taking up other interests.
Working flexible hours may even make you more productive as we all know that office time can often be taken up with non-work related issues.
In the UK , the Government has announced plans to give millions of people the right to request flexible working. With statistics showing 91% of employers who received requests for flexible working in the last year approved them. So if you want to work flexibly, the first step is simply to work out a mutually beneficial way forward for you and your employer – and then just ask.