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Benefits of flexible working (including for parents)

Flexible working is becoming more accepted in the workplace, but what are the benefits to the business and for the employees?

With many homes in the country now getting full-fibre broadband and high-speed broadband, many now question the need to be in the office at all. The benefits of flexible working are there for all to see.

Having to turn up to an office at nine and leave at five doesn’t help the average worker that may need to do the school run or look after an elderly parent or attend an appointment to see a doctor.

With flexible working, employees can work the hours they want (within reason). If the tasks are completed by a reasonable deadline, everyone should be happy, boss and worker. Many forward-looking organisations now see that flexible working is nothing to fear and many potential recruits can raise the subject in interviews without feeling they could lose a prospective job. Flexible working is a wonderful way for businesses to retain talent and keep everyone happy!

There are many studies that show that trusting a person to do their job on their own pays dividends for the business. It's not a case of slackers getting an easy day off. Results from AAT research showed that employees often clock extra hours of work every week when trusted to work remotely.

Driving a car to work every day is bad for the environment. Using a train may be more friendly for the environment, but Covid-19 means that could be an effective way to catch a fatal bug. Why not let your workers turn commuting time into something more profitable for the business!

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Coronavirus and home working 

At the time of writing, the world is gripped in the grasp of the coronavirus pandemic. What started out as an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in China has torn across the world and has reached Europe and the US. 

In an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, many organisations have gone into lockdown, with their staff sent to work from home. Those that had a remote working scheme in place will have found making such a move a fairly frictionless process; IT Pro, for example, makes heave use of remote login processes, cloud-based document sharing, and the likes of Slack to work and communicate in a collaborative manner despite the team being miles upon miles apart. 

Of course, this does require a business to have the right tools and equipment in place to enable employees to work from home, such as capable laptops, cloud-based services access, and the right communications software. But it also requires employees to 'buy in' to remote working, with both managers and other staff being active in open and clear communication and have defined objectives and processes in place to avoid miscommunication that can happen when people aren't able to speak face-to-face. 

For companies that don't have a remote working scheme in place, it might seem a bit late to set up one. But in the midst of a pandemic any action to help keep staff safe yet also empower them to be productive will be a boon. 

Benefits for employers

Increased productivity

Different people are better at working at different times of the day. For example, some people may be more productive early in the morning, while others may be night owls. Removing standard business hours' and giving the go-ahead for staff to work when they feel most productive will mean you are getting the most from your employees every day. 

Reduced sick leave

More motivated staff, who are able to work the hours that suit them best will mean employees are healthier and happier. Stress will be reduced, which in turn can help their physical health. In a study by Unison, the number of sick days taken by employees fell from 12% to just 2% when a flexible working policy was introduced.

More skilled workers

When offering flexible working as a benefit, you're more likely to attract a wider pool of candidates to a role, especially if you're open to full-time remote working. Not only does this mean you can appoint staff across the country, but if you need a specific skill that is experiencing a shortage in the UK, you can look further afield.

Reduced office space costs

A report by Vodafone revealed that 61% of companies that have employed a flexible working policy have managed to increase profits since introducing new terms and although much of this is a result of increased productivity, cost savings is also a contributory factor. If you have fewer employees in the office, you'll also find your costs will reduce on office equipment, support services and other shared resources such as energy bills, reception staff and facilities.

Reduced staff turnover

If employees feel they are valued by the firm, which includes allowing them to work from where they wish and when, they are likely to have more job satisfaction, which in turn means they're less likely to be searching for a job. Happy employees are loyal employees

Benefits for employees

Reduced travel costs

Without the commute to work, employees can save a considerable amount of money on travel. Many train operators now offer flexi tickets to help those who don't head into the office every day, giving them the same discounted fares for three or four days a week as those who have a ticket for seven days a week. For example, C2C's Flexi-Season ticket allows you to buy ten tickets upfront with a 5% discount against buying the same amount of anytime day return tickets. You'll need to use the tickets within six months of buying them, but that will be no problem for those who only head into the office a few days a week. 

Reduced childcare costs

If you have the benefit of working from home, you can also reduce costs on childcare. Whether your children are school age or younger, the fact you can take the commute out of the equation could mean you save money on breakfast or dinner club for your children, childminding or nursery costs. If you are a keen multitasker, you could eradicate childcare costs completely on the days you are able to work from home too.

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More downtime

Trading a commute to and from the workplace for a handful of steps to the dining room table is giving employees more personal time to relax, resulting in an overall better work/life balance. Commuting is considered one of the most stressful events in existence, and unfortunately is also one which most of us regularly experience.

If left unaddressed, the stress it causes can fester into other, more damaging mental health issues. Maintaining a positive work/life balance allows employees to feel much more positive about life generally, benefiting their health and wellbeing. The flexibility of remote working practices in many modern enterprises ensures that if work/life equilibrium is preliminarily not achieved, employees have the power to adjust their allocated days accordingly. 

More job satisfaction

Given the freedom to adapt their working hours and/or location, employees report a stronger relationship of trust with their employers, resulting in a higher rate of job satisfaction.

Employees value being valued; if employers not only accommodate needs and wants put forward by staff, but go the extra mile to ensure they enjoy their day-to-day by listening and involving them in the decisions affecting their career, it's likely to instil a feeling of loyalty towards the organisation too - benefiting both parties. 

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