The sentiment, 'work to live' may underpin the mottos of many business and lifestyle gurus but, for most of us, putting it into practise is unfeasible. As a result, juggling deadlines, meetings and the demands of modern life can leave us at best exhausted and at worst clinically anxious and depressed. However, that may all be about to change.
As of 30 June, new legislation governing applications for flexible working arrangements will come in to force which quite simply mean employers will be obliged to consider changes to an employee's contracted hours, upon request.
Formerly a process available to those caring for children under the age of 17 (or disabled children under 18 years), from the end of the month anyone who has worked continuously for an employer for a period of at least 26 weeks can apply to restructure their working life and will be entitled to thorough evaluation of their proposal. Flexible working options may include later starts, shift patterns, job-sharing and working from home or at a different location.
While employers can refuse the request if it is considered detrimental to business interests - for example, it may incur extra staff costs - the right to appeal is also built into the guidelines and feedback is mandatory, giving employees the opportunity to demonstrate why their request should be granted. If organised properly, flexible working hours CAN be good for business.
1. Staff morale and performance
Consider the hour from 9am to 10am a power hour. An extra hour in bed, walking to work and time spent with friends and family are all proven mood boosters, meaning that those who shift their working hours back in the day are likely to be happier. Happy employees are more likely to value their careers and put more effort into them, resulting in better performance for the company as a whole. In the absence of substantial pay rises, small concessions in flexible working hours can be seen as a great incentive for staff to show loyalty to their employer.
2. International networking
Consider the important transatlantic call that happens at 2pm, or the aftermath of said call that sees disgruntled employees working late into the night; there are many practical reasons for why changing the start time of the working day may be useful for business practice. The standard 9-5pm does not necessarily suit global trade or the online arena and it's time that businesses acted to reflect that.
3. Flexible working saves money
It is hoped that the new guidelines will reduce the perceived stigma of working part time. As employers are encouraged to see flexible working as a positive solution for all, employees who had previously been discouraged from requesting fewer hours may be encouraged to do so. Providing the existing business workload can still be met, this is likely to save an organisation money.
4. A healthier, brighter workforce
If employees are encouraged to take time out to pursue new skills such as languages or computer programming, this is likely to be useful for a business. Alternatively, having time for an extra gym session or to simply eat and sleep well will combat the fatigue and lack of concentration that can impact productivity.
5. The modern hierarchy
Opportunities such as job-sharing can represent new opportunities for those seeking progression in the workplace if employees are paired on the basis of their strengths. Encouraging collaborative working may result in a greater number of ideas and improved problem-solving ability of a team as a whole. It also ensures those who have undertaken short contracts such as maternity cover do not feel demoted upon the return of a colleague and are able to continue to use their experience.