How HR can support flexible working in organisations

Four ways HR Specialists can support flexible working in their organisation

If you’re reading this blog on the Trapeze HR website the chances are you’re already convinced that flexible working is a good thing. Sadly, other members of your organisation may be more doubtful. Where that’s the case: What can the HR Specialist do to support and encourage flexible working across the organisation? Master the four steps below to be effective.

1. Be very clear on the business benefits

Accumulated research evidence over the past twenty years confirms that offering flexible working tends to result in higher employee engagement and productivity; attracting and helping to retain a more diverse workforce and supporting wellbeing. In addition arrangements such as homeworking and compressed hours - which reduce employee travel time - have a positive impact on the environment and tie in nicely with CSR and Environmental initiatives. Flexible arrangements also have a positive impact on the bottom line by reducing real estate costs.

2. Make sure you fully understand the options

Flexible working is a rather vague term for an assortment of both part and full time arrangements that include reduced hours, flexitime, compressed hours, home and remote working, job-share and annual hours. While each of these options carries enormous benefits there are also some downsides; for example, compressed hours added to a lengthy commute can impact negatively on an employee’s wellbeing and a job-share that’s been badly set up runs a high risk of failure.

People asking for flexible working often have a specific arrangement in mind - which may have been influenced by what they believe is possible. Your broader understanding of the various options can result in them negotiating an arrangement that’s more suitable for them and their manager and your awareness of the pitfalls involved, ensures you’re well placed to support the manager in making the arrangement a success.

3. Build an in-house database

Over the years I’ve learnt there’s often a lot going on under the radar and we often underestimate the expertise that exists inside the organisation. My first step when I’m invited in, is to identify what that expertise looks like and I recommend you do the same. Ask your managers about previous experience with flexible arrangements. What have they seen that worked and what was less successful? Ask what informal arrangements are already being worked within the organisation and who the role models are and publicise them widely. A manager that’s initially resistance to flexible working may be reassured by talking to a colleague with more experience; while role models can demonstrate the practicalities of overcoming concerns and barriers.

4. Learn to craft flexible senior jobs

Offering flexible working at junior levels tends to be relatively straightforward. Routine work often lends itself to part-time, term-time or job-share arrangements. When it comes to senior roles, offering them on a flexible basis can pose more of a challenge, however, this is also where flexibility is likely to have a bigger impact – particularly in supporting women’s career progression. If re-shaping jobs is new to you then take a look at the Job Crafting work of Yale Professor Amy Wrzesniewski or come along to one of my regular masterclasses on the topic.

Anna Meller is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and one of the UK’s leading experts in re-balancing work.  https://www.linkedin.com/in/annameller/