Immediate Flexible Working Requests and their Impact on SMEs

The way we work is evolving, and with the latest legislation announced in the Spring Budget, flexible working has moved from an occasional ask to a “right-to-request” from day one of employment. This change mandates a more dynamic approach be taken by small and medium-sized businesses keen on leveraging flexible working to boost their overall productivity, enhance team collaboration, and lower costs.

Our previous article explored "Key Trends for 2024" and touched on the critical role adaptable work environments play in enhancing employee well-being.

The demand for flexible work arrangements became particularly evident in the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. By allowing employees to tailor their work hours and choose their locations, organisations help their staff manage both personal and professional commitments more effectively. This not only leads to a more engaged workforce but has been shown to reduce burnout, boost loyalty, and widen the organisation's appeal to both current and prospective talent.

Benefits of working more flexibly

While flexible working arrangements offer numerous benefits for both staff and businesses, it's important to recognise that not everyone thrives in the same environment. Some people prefer the atmosphere and routine of going into the office and find it stimulates productivity and creativity. For these individuals, a hybrid model can be particularly effective, allowing them to split their time in a way that suits them.

Implementing flexible working successfully requires clear HR policies and effective communication so everyone knows what is expected of them. To ensure that flexible working translates into tangible benefits for the business and its staff, businesses can adopt several strategic practices:

  1. Develop clear communication strategies: Utilise centralised platforms such as Slack or Microsoft Teams to maintain clear and consistent communication across all levels of the organisation. Schedule regular updates through newsletters or virtual meetings to keep remote workers informed about ongoing projects and company news.

  2. Enhance collaboration: Implement collaborative tools such as Asana, Trello, or Sharepoint and other Microsoft tools. Organise regular in-person or virtual check-ins to foster a sense of community and teamwork.

  3. Maintain high productivity: Transition to outcome-based performance evaluations and allow employees to work during their most productive hours, enhancing both satisfaction and output. Not everyone has brilliant ideas during the hours of 9 and 5.

  4. Foster innovation: Utilise idea-sharing platforms and organise regular innovation challenges to solve business problems creatively and improve products or services.

  5. Establish mentorship programmes that partner younger employees with experienced senior team members to help advance their skills and career development. Additionally, provide access to continuous learning opportunities (CPD) to support their professional growth. Recognising the social aspect of work, it may be beneficial to organise regular social activities that can foster a sense of community and enhance team cohesion. However, participation in these social events should not be mandatory, respecting those who may have external commitments or prefer less frequent engagement in social activities.

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