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Are flexible working practices right for you?

Years ago an employee’s commitment was measured on time in the office. But this focus on ‘presenteeism’ is fading fast. More and more businesses are realising the significant business benefits that flexible working can bring – with over two thirds of UK small and medium enterprises now offering flexible working opportunities.

Flexible working covers a myriad of arrangements including part-time, term-time, flexi-time, mobile working, and compressed hours. All of these give a degree of flexibility around the location, duration, and timing of when employees work.

According to research by Lloyds Commercial Banking, adopting these sort of practices can bring several advantages.  One of the most tangible being the effect it can have on your workforce – with employees feeling empowered, motivated, and happier, because they aren’t having to fit their life in before 9am and after 5pm.

But it isn’t just about benefitting individuals (although a happier team means reduced absence levels and improved retention rates). Flexible working also has the potential to boost productivity and improve customer service as a result of creating a more dynamic workforce – employees can work from wherever they need to, whenever they need to, in a way that suits your business.

If you are thinking about adopting working hours that better suit your employees and customers, ask yourself:

  • How and when does your business function? When are your busiest times of day?
  • How do your clients want or need you to work? Do they require 24/7 support? Would they benefit from more face-to-face time?
  • Do you have the right technology in place to support mobile working?

Before embarking on the introduction of flexible working it is also vital to agree goals, such as productivity, communications, and employee satisfaction. This will give you a clear view of the impact that your new working patterns are having, and means you can tweak them as necessary.

As with any business change, it is not enough to just plan for the logistical side of things.  While many employees are receptive to the prospect of flexible working, there may be some who are concerned that greater flexibility and use of technology will result in them being permanently on call. Others may be concerned that not being present in the office will be career limiting.

For this reason it is vital to engage your employees in the change and provide them with clear guidance and parameters for the new ways of working – for example, letting them know that you aren’t expecting them to be responding to emails from their beds, and putting in place mechanisms to ensure clear lines of communication regardless of an employee’s physical location.

And one of the best ways to be an advocate for successful flexible working? Lead the way and show them how it’s done.





“There is evidence to suggest that good HR practice and people management in SMEs are key factors in strong business performance and can lead to increased productivity.”

- CIPD people Skills Project 2017


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