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Flexible working – an employer’s worst nightmare or a gift in disguise?

As businesses, we are constantly looking at streamlining, efficiencies and cutting costs but when it comes to flexible working requests they are often met with a feeling of dread. Granted, there are sometimes initial costs with dealing with part-time working and a certain level of administration but it also comes with its perks. A demand for flexible working is a great opportunity to cut employment costs, reconsider resourcing/organisation charts, retain skilled workers and more often than not, make a workforce more efficient.

Imagine the hoops you would have to jump through to reduce overheads, cut the number of employees or hours worked in your organisation, to save on staff costs, and here you have people wanting to cut their hours for work life balance. So, why are flexible working requests met with such dread? The reality is, employers more often than not prefer knowing exactly when staff will be at their desks, struggle to imagine how part-time workers will fulfil the needs of a business and quite fairly, want to ensure that their customers’ needs are always met within business hours. No one is saying that accommodating flexible working arrangements is easy or always the right thing for a business, but by using a little imagination, there are ways that it can often be accomplished to both the employees and the employers advantage!

In the most part, employees who have opted for a flexible working arrangement are often more productive in their days than the average employee. Why is this? There is nothing like a 3 day week or 4pm deadline to keep you focused on completing your to-do list, you are constantly striving to be as good as your full-time counterpart to avoid the label of a ‘part-timer’ and invariably, whilst being paid for say 4 days, you invariably work the hours of a 5 day week (constantly checking your email and phone on your day off!). This gives an employer the optimum value for money, 100% work for the price of 80%!

A recent article by the BBC states that in the UK “we produce on average 30% less per hour than workers in Germany, the US and France – we even produce 10% less than the average Italian.” The Article goes on to suggest that perhaps a four-day week could be a good incentive to increase productivity. Is our lack of productivity partly down to us working hard (longer) not smarter? Research shows that vast amount of time spent in the office is wasted, people tend to complete tasks in short bursts and then are typically messing about, chatting, paying the bills, surfing the net, daydreaming and waiting for the day to finish.” (BBC Magazine). There is certainly enough research out there to suggest that flexible working may in fact boost productivity in the workplace.

Recruitment companies are constantly reminding businesses to act quickly if they like a candidate, this is due to there being a plethora of jobs around and a shortage of skilled candidates for certain jobs. According to Helen Stacey at Aspire Jobs: “Many businesses are finding themselves disappointed when a good candidate has already accepted a job elsewhere. Candidates are becoming much more aware of work/life balance as the report shows it’s not all about remuneration, it’s also about location, travelling time and flexible hours. The job market is changing and flexible working provides great incentives to candidates”. The reality is, the number of parents, carers, employees wishing to reduce hours whilst approaching their retirement age is continuing to grow, this provides a ‘new’ pool of talented candidates for employers to choose from.

There is a strong argument that the skill shortage is in part linked to parents, carers and people nearing the end of their careers stepping out of employment due to them not being able to undertake flexible working arrangements to accommodate their private needs. Surely, adapting your workplace to accommodate talented people who would otherwise leave the industry, has to be good opportunity to boost your workforce. Furthermore, providing flexible working to stop talented employees leaving the workplace entirely would cut recruitment and training costs, increase retention of a known entity and ultimately, you would reduce staffing costs with lower hours.

If you are considering a flexible working request, it’s the first time you’ve had to deal with one and you’re not sure how to legally respond or you are struggling to see how a flexible working arrangement would work within your business but you require support to ascertain whether it could work, please contact us at ViewHR for an initial free consultation on 01425 205391 or at (

Thank you to Helen Stacey at Aspire Jobs for your contributions to this article. Helen can be contacted on 07974 429217 or at