You may have noticed that, recently, there has been an abundance of blogs, articles and studies about flexible working, but what are the benefits of flexible working for employees? Millions have experienced working from home for the first time, and the question often posed is whether some form of flexible working will remain after the pandemic.
But one question that is often overlooked is WHY employees should want a continuation of flexible working. Of course, it sounds good, but what are the real tangible benefits for employees?
Firstly, it is worth noting that ‘flexible working’ should be divided into two distinct categories:
- Flexibility in when people work
- Flexibility in where people work
It is not a given that both are offered when an employer offers flexible working, although in its truest sense, both should be on the table.
Here we examine the two categories – working hours and working arrangements.
The benefits of flexible working hours for employees
The demands of being a parent or caregiver
When you have children, they tend to be rather demanding of your time, especially when they are young. Until they reach a certain age, they can’t make their own way to school. Pre-school, toddlers and young children can’t be left at home alone to fend for themselves!
Some parents and carers are lucky enough to have a family network who can step in and help. Not everyone is so fortunate and the cost of paid-for childcare is prohibitively expensive.
An inflexible employer makes the task of juggling work and childcare very difficult. But if working hours can fit around the commitments of parenting, then stress levels will plummet and can be a huge benefit for employees and prospective employees.
Added to this is the ability to enjoy the magical moments from nativity plays to sports days. Children grow up too fast and these occasions should be treasured, not missed due to unnecessarily rigid rules.
Avoiding the rush hour
Our roads were not designed for so many cars, and this is never more obvious than when you are stuck in an infuriating traffic jam during peak travel hours.
If a car journey to work takes 20 minutes in light traffic or an hour during the busiest times, that’s an hour and twenty minutes a day sitting in a jam, purely because you are travelling at the wrong time.
This adds up to 6 hours, 40 minutes a week. Or over 300 hours a year of sitting in traffic. You get the picture.
An earlier or later start prevents all that wasted time and those noxious plumes of exhaust fumes being released into the environment, not to mention less stress for the individual.
Rail against extortionate fares
Imagine these two different scenarios. David lives in Brighton and works three days per week near London Victoria station. Louise also lives in Brighton and has a similar job and hours. As they are not working full time, weekly or monthly season tickets are not viable options.
David works 9am – 5.30pm. Louise has flexible hours.
David pays £49.35 in train tickets every day, though he often has to stand for at least part of the journey.
Louise leaves after the rush hour, so she can use her discounted network card. She pays £13.45 a day.
Louise goes to better restaurants and has nicer holidays! She always gets a seat on the train.
The benefits of flexible working arrangements for employees
The demands of being a parent or a carer
School run issues can be solved by flexible hours, but the holidays provide a whole new set of challenges. For some it is a case of taking leave to cover childcare when school’s out, but it’s never enough.
In a typical school year, children are off for 13 weeks. Independent school holidays are even longer. An employer typically offers up to 5 weeks holiday in addition to the eight Bank Holidays. This leaves over six weeks without childcare.
Being able to work from home, or take additional unpaid leave, offers a solution to the interminable question of childcare.
Avoiding the rush hour
If you are allowed to work from home, you can wave farewell to frustrating traffic jams and all that wasted time. If it normally takes an hour to drive to work, working from home means you get back ten hours a week!
Balancing life and work is made easier if you remove the time-consuming commute to work.
Rail against extortionate fares
Going back to our example of David and Louise. If David works the same hours but is allowed to work from home, he benefits from a hefty saving of £49.35 for each workday.
Now David can also spend more money on restaurants and holidays.
Why flexible working is here to stay
Whether allowing flexibility on working hours or location, there are obvious benefits for employees, especially those who have family commitments. When work and family tasks collide, life can get fraught. Increased stress impacts health and productivity at work.
And there are benefits that are more difficult to measure. It is so important to spend quality time with loved ones and flexible working allows that to happen.
People save money and time by removing the need to travel into the workplace. Many will save in other ways. Grabbing a cappuccino on route to the office and a Pret sandwich at lunchtime may not seem like huge outlays, but they certainly add up.
And there are other benefits too.
Employees can get more done when removed from the chaos and distractions of a busy office, as has been proved during the pandemic. But flexible working (a hybrid model) means the time in the office can be more productive too. If you know you are only in the office a few days a week or a few hours a day, you can be more focused to get everything done.
The only caveat is that flexible working does have its challenges. As working practices become less rigid, the channels of communication are loosened. There are tools to ensure that people stay connected such as WeThrive’s free employee engagement and wellbeing survival kit.
And flexible working means that employee surveys become even more important. With WeThrive, each employee gets a personalised bubble to track and view their recommended actions, insights and progress.
With a robust employee engagement programme, team members can glean all the time, money and family benefits of flexible working, without losing out on opportunities to grow and succeed at work. And if staff are happier and less stressed, they’ll be more productive too. Why not try the survey yourself for free?
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