With so much going on in our increasingly hectic world, the benefits of flexible working are becoming more and more attractive.
In fact, providing employees with some extra leeway in how they organise their working day can be a great way for businesses to boost productivity, improve staff retention, and create a more positive environment in the workplace. This could mean giving employees a degree of choice in the hours they work, or perhaps allowing them to carry out some of their duties from home.
However, a strategy of implementing this at your business is not without its pitfalls, as it can be abused by less conscientious employees. This could include unauthorized absences, reduced working hours, or inappropriate use of company equipment or resources.
With all this in mind, below are some major advantages and disadvantages to consider before introducing a more flexible structure at your business.
For employers, some of the advantages of offering a more flexible structure in the workplace include:
Increased choice when recruiting staff
Being able to vary the working hours you can offer potential employees makes it more feasible for anyone living a considerable distance from your workplace to commute. This ‘widens the net’ during recruitment and gives you access to a wider pool of potential candidates to choose from.
Improved staff retention
In common with any management strategy which can enhance the well-being of your employees, flexible working has the potential to reduce the likelihood of staff members choosing to look for work elsewhere. This is as a result of them appreciating the ability to work their home life around work, meaning they are likely to return your trust with loyalty.
Different people will be more productive depending on the time of day and whether they are a ‘morning person’ or something of a ‘night owl’. Offering flexible hours allows everybody to work when they are at their best, thus increasing productivity overall.
For their part, employees can benefit from this type of management style in the following ways:
Ability to balance home and work commitments
Being able to choose when they work means that parents can balance their hours so that one parent takes the children to school in the morning and the other collects them in the afternoon. By respecting the personal lives of your employees, you create an enhanced level of respect, allowing you to get the maximum productivity and co-operation levels out of your team in the long run.
Mitigate difficulties associated with long-distance commuting
Most workplaces still operate on an approximate ‘9 to 5’ schedule, meaning the daily commute will often result in queuing traffic or uncomfortably busy trains at peak times. A flexible timetable allows employees to travel outside these hours, making for a far more enjoyable and viable commute. It will also allow them to spend less time travelling and more time working, in addition to minimising the likelihood of them running late.
Enhanced sense of trust and self-determination
Working on their own terms gives employees a sense of ownership of their job and makes them feel that they are trusted by their employer. Which as discussed earlier can increase their loyalty and respect towards you as a manager, meaning they are far more likely to work at full capacity.
In terms of potential disadvantages, the problems associated with implementing a flexible management structure primarily concern management and business owners.
Unauthorised absences and reduced working hours
Allowing staff members to work from home means employers are relying on them to work the required hours. While placing trust in them in this manner has its upsides, it is also open to abuse.
Compromised control over key tasks
Regardless of how capable your employees are, it is almost inevitable that some tasks will require close supervision. This is difficult to achieve under a flexible system, especially if new working practices or duties are being introduced.
Difficulty in assessing productivity and efficiency
If you are not fully aware of how your team members operate because they are working from home or do not share your preferred working hours, it can be difficult to recreate their successes across your business.
For their part, employees are faced with very few problematic issues when a flexible management system is implemented. Being able to set your own working hours in particular has only negligible disadvantages – if any – for the employee.
Working from home, however, can present some staff member with a number of challenges. Most seriously, managers could be less aware of how they are performing on a day to day basis and might not fully recognise their accomplishments. This could lead to colleagues being given undue credit for their work, possibly at the expense of their own career advancement or salary increases.
Additionally, some employees might find that working from home is simply not right for them. They might encounter more difficulties in their daily work without the close supervision of their line manager, or miss the input of colleagues when working on complex tasks. On a practical note, not everyone has an adequate space in their home in which to work.
Ultimately, the suitability of flexible working can only be decided on a case by case basis. Some employees will thrive given this extra flexibility and trust, others may struggle to manage their time and stay productive.