Flexible working is a non-traditional means by which employees can fulfil their duties while also catering to their own practical needs. Examples of flexible working include working from home or another location away from the office, as well as working hours outside the typical ‘9 to 5’.
It is often employees who are carers or have children who take advantage of flexible working, which makes it easy to forget that all employees are actually legally entitled to request flexible working. As the gov.co.uk site outlines, an employee has the right to apply for flexible working – a process also referred to as ‘making a statutory application’ – if they have worked continuously for an employer for the last 26 weeks.
There is then a three-month window in which the employer is allowed to make a decision and adjust the contract of the employee if needed. While an employer is able to refuse flexible working, it must do so in writing and provide ‘business reasons’ for its refusal.
Now that we’ve covered the basic legalities of flexible working, it’s time to consider whether it’s right for your employees and what the impact will likely be. So, here are a few potential advantages.
It enables your employees to achieve a better work/life balance
If your workers aren’t constrained so much with regard to where and when they need to work, they will probably be able to strike a better balance between the parts of their life in and outside work. This has been demonstrated to be an aid to productivity, which could mean heightened billings for your agency.
Furthermore, advancements in technology – including the rise of cloud-based software and CRM systems – increasingly enable recruiters to perform their duties almost anywhere in the world, as long as you give them access to such tools.
Surveys have indicated that an amazing 53% of employees feel their productivity would be higher if they were permitted to work outside the office. Ultimately, if your consultant bills £50,000 from the office or instead £50,000 from their own home while keeping an eye on the kids, why would you really care either way?
It allows your employees to avoid the stress of commuting
It may not exactly feel like your problem as an employer if someone breaks down on the A1M and the resultant tailback delays your employees getting to work. However, the likelihood is that your workers will be much happier if they don’t have to spend 40 or 50 minutes stuck in traffic while getting stressed out about how late they’ll be.
Such panic can be greatly eased when your employees have the option of flexible working. Bear in mind that there will probably always be workers of yours who prefer to come in early and leave earlier, as well as the night owls who like to come in late and leave later. You therefore shouldn’t have to worry much about no one being in the office to answer calls if a few of your workers do decide to work flexibly.
It gives your workers a greater sense of control and responsibility
Ultimately, your consultants aren’t children, so you should be able to trust them to manage their own time and workload, wherever they happen to be. Furthermore, giving your employees control over their timetable and working environment helps to give them a sense of responsibility and professionalism, which should be beneficial in turn to not only their mood, but also your sales.
Appropriate boundaries and targets do need to be set, of course, and you should still be monitoring the work that your employees produce. But if you implement these measures, you should be able to give your workers the freedom to work flexibly with no ill-effect on your sales.
So, those are the advantages that your workers can see when you implement flexible working – but what are the specific perks of such a scheme for your agency?
Morale should be higher, and your staff more committed
A recruitment agency with a high level of employee turnover is a much more stressful one to run than an agency that does a good job of staff retention – and how can you ensure the latter?
Well, introducing flexible working should help, as it will show that you care about your consultants and their lives outside work. That, in turn, will likely make them feel much more committed to your firm. According to research, a flexi working scheme could also be instrumental in reducing both employee lateness and the number of ‘sick’ days your staff take.
Your firm’s productivity, service and bottom line should all improve
Your consultants having the freedom to work when they feel freshest and most alert should leave them well-placed to achieve exactly what you, as a director, want them to achieve – the best possible results.
The clients of your recruitment agency can also potentially benefit from a flexi working scheme at your company, especially if they are located in other parts of the world, and therefore different time zones. It means that your workers won’t have to schedule time outside their regular working hours to get in touch with international clients, as they can instead simply make their schedule work around the most important clients with which they are attempting to close deals.
As the aforementioned perks make clear, there are quite a few good reasons to introduce flexible working at your recruitment agency. However, such a plan does have its disadvantages, not least the need for greater trust in your employees. You can’t guarantee that a given worker isn’t simply whiling away the hours on Netflix while answering the occasional email, instead of doing the several hours of solid work that you tasked them with doing.
Furthermore, flexible working could cause some discord with your other staffers who are constantly in the office. Your office-based employees may suspect that their colleagues working from home aren’t working as hard as they are, given that they can’t be visually seen by the boss and their progress throughout the day checked as easily.
There are a few other possible drawbacks that you need to consider. For instance, if you occasionally permit your workers to leave the office early so that they can pick the kids up from school, should they show a certain level of courtesy back to you, such as by answering urgent phone calls from you in the evening?
Flexible working can somewhat blur traditional boundaries and routines, and if your working hours are constantly changing, it can be tricky for your fellow staff to keep up. Plus, it’s still vital for your agency to have an office presence, as those shiny new offices will be a pointless expense if hardly any of your employees are using them to work.
While flexible working can definitely bring certain advantages for you and your workers, it’s a concept that needs to be tailored to the specific circumstances and requirements of your company. If, for example, all of your clients are only available during standard UK business hours, giving your consultants the freedom to work either very early in the morning or past midnight may seem a rather pointless exercise.
A balance therefore needs to be struck between what is best for your staff and what is best for your agency – otherwise, a flexi working scheme at your company may not make much sense. The final decision as to whether to allow or disallow flexible working therefore rightly lies with you, the employer. All of the potential benefits and drawbacks must be weighed up, and much thought given to the likely impact on your business.
Would you like to learn more about how our team here at TBOS can relieve some of the pressure on your recruitment agency by providing the highest standard of back office management? If so, get in touch with us now about our TBOS Complete plan.