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What is Flexible Working?

What is flexible working?

Flexible working is any arrangement that is made between the employer and the employee to amend their work pattern in terms of place, hours or frequency.


Flexible working usually starts with an employee request. Flexible working as has to be an open conversation between both employee and employer on what's needed and what's expected.

Employers are increasingly giving employees an element of freedom to define a working arrangement that supports their lifestyle. In the past this has often been associated with the needs of parents and carers. Now many organisations now recognise the business benefits of a more flexible way of working.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to flexible and family friendly working. Organisations of different sizes have different approaches; some will be more formal than others.

The COVID-19 crisis has forced employers across all sectors to adopt some form of remote working and for many they are seeing that it doesn't have to result in a drop in productivity. Going forward, the way we work, across all sectors and sizes of businesses will change forever. Remote working through the cloud will increasingly become the norm rather than the exception. Becoming an integral part of business continuity planning going forward for all businesses - not just the biggest organisations.

If staff can work flexibly they can avoid travelling at peak times when transport networks are most congested. Avoiding peak times can give individuals their ‘quality’ time back and if enough individuals change, those that do have to travel in the peaks get quicker journeys. Rail and sometimes bus travel is often more expensive in the peak times too.

Better still, allowing staff to work at home on certain days can reduce carbon emissions by reducing vehicle fuel use.

What are the wider benefits of flexible working?

Environmental concerns may not be the primary driver for flexible working but being more sustainable is an attractive knock on benefit for many organisations.

For businesses, flexible working can:

  • Help retain experienced and skilled staff.
  • Increase employee commitment and loyalty.
  • Widen the talent pool so that employers can recruit people with more skills.

For individuals, flexible working can:

  • Enable more people to improve their lives by providing a better balance between work and home.
  • Reduce the number of people on benefits.
  • Reduce the number of children of working parents who live in poverty.
  • Enable older workers to stay in the labour market.
  • Enable carers to balance their caring responsibilities with paid work and help employees in general to have a better work-home balance.

In addition, many women who work part time are working below their potential. Half of all women have previously held jobs requiring greater skills, qualifications, managerial experience and responsibility.


Things to consider when it comes to flexible working within your organisation

Your organisation’s culture

Think about the way your business communicates and if there’s anything you could improve. The behaviours and language used by employers, particularly the leaders, are so powerful when it comes to setting the tone for what is considered flexible and family friendly ways of working.

Writing a Policy and guidance on how to use/implement the policy

Important to put in writing a flexible working policy, but this is only the first step. Guidance on how to use the policies for both line managers and employees is even more important than the procedural aspects. Needs to be guidance on how to create an open, honest and approachable environment that will allow flexible working arrangements to work successfully.

Workplace support

Having clear, understandable policies and Line Managers who are trained in how to deal with flexible working requests goes a long way towards creating the right culture and that open, honest and approachable environment.


There are different ways to gather evidence of effective family friendly and flexible working practice. From HR information on absence and turnover to employee engagement surveys, they will help you understand what’s currently working and those areas that would benefit from having more focus to help build that culture. Build your flexible and family friendly policies into your business KPIs.
For employers that are getting flexible working right, there is evidence of increased productivity, reduction in staff turnover and improved employee morale.


Look at how other employers in your sector are performing on flexible working culture and find out how you compare.

Different types of flexible working that might work for your organisation

The whole idea is that flexible working is unique to each individual , but here are some examples of types of flexible working arrangements that you can consider.

Job sharing - two people do one job and split the hours.

Working remotely - It might be possible to do some or all of the work from home from a shared/co-working space other than the normal place of work.

Part time - working less than full-time hours (usually by working fewer days).

Compressed hours - working full-time hours but over fewer days.

Flexitime - the employee chooses when to start and end work (within agreed limits) but works certain ‘core hours’, e.g. 10am to 4pm every day.

Annualised hours - the employee has to work a certain number of hours over the year but they have some flexibility about when they work. There are sometimes ‘core hours’ which the employee regularly works each week, and they work the rest of their hours flexibly or when there’s extra demand at work.

Staggered hours - the employee has different start, finish and break times from other workers.

Phased retirement – the default retirement age has been phased out and older workers can choose when they want to retire. This means they can reduce their hours and work part time.

Employees that meet certain criteria have a legal right to request flexible working and employers have a duty to give their request serious consideration. However, regardless of legal obligations, an increasing number of businesses are appreciating how flexible working can benefit their employee’s performance, for example, through improved employee motivation and productivity. Business Gateway provides a useful guide to flexible and home working. Europe's leading website for smarter working, providing valuable news, views and resources about flexible working. - is a membership based website that gives employers access to the tools, guides and policies needed to implement flexible and family-friendly business practices.

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