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What is flexible working?

Flexible working is a really broad term, which is used to describe a number of different work patterns. Here’s our quick guide to the most common types of flexible working and the boost they could give to your organisation.

what is flexible working

There’s no doubt that flexible working is becoming an established part of the HR strategy for forward-looking companies. Employers are becoming increasingly vocal about how it benefits their business, and 9 in 10 employees say they want it. What’s more, it has been shown to help tackle a wide range of issues, from talent attraction and retention to the gender pay gap.

But the term ‘flexible working’ is a broad one, which means different things to different people. To add to the confusion, some people and companies use different phrases to describe it, such as ‘agile working’ or ‘smart working’. So here’s our quick guide to what flexible working actually is, how to make it work, and what it could do for you.

The Timewise definition of flexible working

At Timewise, we use the term ‘flexible working’ to describe any kind of working pattern that doesn’t fit into the traditional 9-5, five day week. We also believe that flexible roles should be quality, permanent ones which benefit employers and employees alike. So we don’t include zero hours or temping contracts.

What is flexible working

Truly flexible jobs don't happen by accident. To be successful, they need to be approached thoughtfully, designed creatively, and built into the company culture. Our consultancy team are experts in flexible job design, and would be happy to help you maximise the benefits of flexible working for your organisation.

There are three main factors to consider when designing a flexible role: where, when or in how much time the work is done. Here are some examples of how each can be used to deliver greater flexibility:

How to flex WHERE people work

  • Working from home, either for part or all of the working week
  • Working across different offices
  • Mobile working from a variety of locations

These options allow employees to reduce ‘lost time’ commuting and supports their wellbeing and focus. They have also been shown to increases productivity and decrease your business footprint.

How to flex WHEN people work

  • Flexible start or finish times
  • Annualised flexibility (such as term time only)
  • Compressed hours (a full working week in fewer, longer days)
  • Project-based work
  • Shift work

These can help you create cover across a longer day without overtime, or allow you to scale headcount up and down depending on workload across the year. They can also support the attraction, retention and well-being of those with family or other commitments.

How to flex HOW MUCH people work

  • Part-time work
  • Job sharing or job splitting
  • Unpaid leave

Again, these options will help you attract, progress and retain talented employees, particularly those with outside interests or responsibilities. Part-time work is the most commonly requested option but there is a growing interest in job sharing, which delivers a full-time role for the business while creating with opportunities for part-timers.

Take the next step and start designing flexible roles

Understanding what flexible working means is an important first step. The next one is to do something about it – and that’s where we come in. We offer a range of services, from consultancy and training to partnership and formal accreditation; please get in touch to find out more.

Published July 2019

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