Graphic showing Monday to Friday 9-5 with a strike through

At City CV, our career coaches meet many clients who are looking for a different work life balance and luckily for them, the working world is evolving (albeit somewhat slowly) in their favour. Attitudes are changing, IT capabilities encourage it and businesses are waking up to the fact that being flexible just makes common sense. It attracts expert, dedicated and extremely loyal employees – what business doesn’t yearn for that?

Flexible Working Innovation

Richard Branson is an entrepreneur and pioneer in many fields but as an employer of thousands of people, he’s just as keen as the next business owner to retain his staff, boost staff morale and attract talent.  He has recently spoken out about flexible working and once again, he’s breaking the mould and trying something different, suggesting that employees should be able to work how and when they want and holiday when they want. 

And he’s not alone, Pursuit Marketing in Glasgow is the first private company in the UK to introduce roles with term-time contracts.  The company has won flexible working awards for its four-day week (with no cut in pay), introduced in 2016.  Why, might you ask, are they going to the lengths of term time working when they’ve already introduced a four-day week?

Productivity and staff retention are Pursuit’s reasons which Branson echoes.  It’s simple really, happier staff leads to great output, customer service, innovation, a willingness to go the extra mile….the list of positives goes on and all of this contributes to a happier client base and a healthy bottom line. 

Flexible Working Options

The Pursuit and Virgin examples are extreme but they show the direction of flexible working.  By its very name, flexible working is open to interpretation but here are some of its most common forms:

Part-time – working fewer hours than full-time.

Job sharing – 2 people (usually) split the hours in half, generally, and perform one role. 

Working remotely – The advancement in technology over the last 10-15 years means that working from home is much easier these days and of course, it doesn’t have to be at home. 

Compressed hours – this means working full-time but over fewer days e.g. working 5 days in 4.  It may require longer hours but if it allows you to achieve more downtime then it may be worth it.

Annualised hours – similar to compressed hours in that you have to work a certain number of hours in a year.

Flexitime – you choose when you start and end work.  Generally, there are some agreed fixed hours.

How To Approach Your Employer

All employees that have been employed by that company for over 26 weeks now have the legal right to request flexible working; yes, you read correctly all employees can request flexible working.  It’s often a way of working associated with working parents who perhaps need more time in the day to make childcare drop-off and collection but it is available to all. 

So, if there’s a course you’d like to do on a Wednesday, you’d like more long weekends or you’d like to be able to work somewhere else every other Monday, flexible working could be for you.

Here Are City CV’s Top Tips:

  • In Richard Branson’s world, you could implement several flexible working options from the list at any one time but for the time being, most employers prefer you to choose one and stick to it. ACAS offer some really useful advice to help you put your application together.
  • Your request for flexible working must be made in writing to your employer and include
    • The date;
    • The flexible work arrangement you’re seeking;
    • Any impact to the business that you foresee. 
  • The process must be completed within three months (hence why you should include a date on your request) and an employer may well start the ball rolling with a meeting.  They should approach the request in a reasonable manner: they may have questions and concerns about how it could work; they may suggest amendments to your request. 
  • Throughout the process, and especially if changes are suggested, try to remain flexible – pun intended.  In order for flexible working to be a success for both parties, often negotiation and some compromise are required.
  • The employer can only deny the request on business grounds so when you submit your application in writing, it’s prudent to think ahead, consider their concerns and try to address them e.g. “I understand that you may be concerned about how I can dial into conference calls from home but I have spoken to IT and they will help me arrange the appropriate set-up.”

Flexible working opens up a world of opportunities, not only to pursue outside interests but also to demonstrate an adaptable you in the workplace.  It opens your mind to a different way of doing things and when it works for both employer and employee, it really can make you feel as though you’re having your cake and eating it, which in this case, helps that bottom line.