useful definition of flexible working relates to when, where,
how and what work is done:
is performed at times that better suit the employer
is carried out wherever is most appropriate and
effective for the employer and/or employee.
are employed and/or rewarded in non-standard ways.
workers are able to undertake a variety of tasks
according to need.
beneficiaries of flexible working include:
who are able to match resources to work need and attract and
retain staff, whilst reducing fixed costs, boosting productivity
and improving customer service.
who can gain access to employment, explore new career
opportunities, raise their incomes, reduce their living costs
and balance more effectively the demands of work and home.
communities and the environment can also gain: these issues are
addressed further in other Flexibility articles.
the HR manager, the challenge is to develop and implement new
working practices that benefit both the business and the staff.
In the long term these interests converge: a more
contented and motivated workforce will deliver improved business
treatises have been written on the demands and characteristics
of different types of job, analysing interactivity, autonomy,
dependencies and other factors.
It is beyond the scope of this book to go into this in
any detail, but it is nevertheless important to understand how
roles differ and, as a consequence, how different types of
common segmentation, which can be applied in a variety of
sectors, is into manager, professional, front-line support and
following example, from a business-to-business sales and
marketing operation, shows where people were spending
their working time worked before and after the introduction of
This was achieved through a combination of the following measures:
and professionals were equipped and enabled to do some of their
work at home.
time away remained broadly the same, travel was reduced
substantially and more time was spent with customers and
front-line support unit - in effect a call-centre - was
relocated closer to a residential area and a flexible,
staff-driven rota scheme was introduced.
Some people were set up to work part-time from their
total numbers of back-office staff were reduced, with some
relocated to the satellite office and some work - mainly finance
- being carried out at home.
In parallel a flexitime scheme was introduced.
with all this, the main office was reduced in size and remodelled
into mainly shared space, paper-free business processes were
introduced, remote access technologies installed to facilitate
more productive home and mobile working and the call centre
service extended from 40 to 60 hours per week.
details will vary from case to case, this example is not
atypical, showing how HR managers need to work with their
facilities and technology colleagues to deliver solutions that
work for both the business and its people.
common situation faced by HR managers is that individual members
of staff put in a request for more flexible working
arrangements, usually in response to changed personal
have a duty, reinforced in part by recent European employment
legislation, not to practice policies that discriminate against
particular groups of worker: those with disabilities or
degenerative illnesses, parents of young children, carers of
elderly relatives, etc. Other
requests from staff may result from relocation because of a
partner's job or a desire for a lifestyle change.
requests often present a dilemma for HR managers for two main
reasons: business impact and precedent.
For example a request to work part-time may necessitate
the recruitment of another part-time worker or substantial
re-allocation of work to other staff members.
Also many employment-related costs are fixed, for example
premises and IT, whether someone is working full- or part-time.
Finally HR managers are often fearful of raising
expectations amongst staff in general, and then being unable to
result of all this is often a fudge, with no clear policies and
different arrangements applying depending on department or role.
In these circumstances, with no clear business
justification, flexible working can be perceived as a burden on
the organisation. The
survey in 1998 by Mitel, Teleworking in Britain, found
that 65% of companies had no policy for teleworking.
solution is to be ahead of the game, with active policies for
flexible working that both benefit the business and satisfy the
aspirations of staff.
the status quo:
is not only cultural factors that inhibit flexible working. Many organisations have deeply entrenched ways of organising
themselves or going about their work that are rarely challenged,
numbers and roles of managers
- who does what?
and role entitlements: offices, secretaries, company cars,
and opening hours.
greatest business performance improvements from flexible working
are often delivered when it is part of a more radical overhaul
of business processes and working practices.
managers are often expected to fulfil purely tactical roles -
hiring, firing, training and dealing with day-to-day issues.
Outdated working practices can sometimes persist
unchallenged for years. The
understanding and promotion of the business benefits of flexible
working give a new and more strategic role to today's human