How to Implement Flexible Working Hours

Author: Eugenija Steponkute
Published: 29/09/2019
flexible working hours

This in-depth article is dedicated to business owners who are hesitating on the implementation of flexible working hours in their company. Also for those who aren’t sure where to start. Let’s keep it simple. If your business doesn’t become flexible, it’s unlikely to have a future.

A new poll from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has revealed that many companies are turning down employee requests for flexible working hours. The survey has revealed that:

  • 30% of employees told the TUC that their request to work flexibly has been rejected. 

  • Flexitime is unavailable to more than half (58%) of the UK’s workforce, rising to 64% among people in working-class occupations.

  • 28% of employees say that their desire to work flexibly is among the main reasons why they may look for another job.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, commented: “Flexible working should be a day one right that’s available to everyone. It’s not right that millions are struggling to balance their work and home lives. Ministers must change the law so that people can work flexibly – regardless of what type of contract they are on. Allowing people more flexibility in how and when they do their work makes them happier and more productive.

The truth is that moving forward the companies will have to adopt flexibility. The pandemic-induced chaos has proven a very valid point. Previous claims of incapability to offer flexible working hours or location, to most companies, were simply unwillingness. And now that the landscape has changed, the workforce doesn’t want to go back to the former system.

The Future is Flexible

There’s no doubt about it: the future workplace is a flexible one. Flexible working allows staff to strike that golden work-life balance. In turn, it has a knock-on effect in terms of productivity, morale and overall well-being. And, as the recent pandemic has shown us, almost every business is capable of adapting when there’s a need.

Companies that offer flexible working are more likely to be seen as ‘employers of choice’. Meaning that a flexible working culture can help you to attract talented employees. Additionally, it can inspire them to stay working for you, improving talent retention. In fact, many employees have reported that if their flexible working privileges were revoked, they’d either start looking for a new job. Some even said they would quit on the spot. In other words, adopting a flexible approach is becoming increasingly necessary in order to both retain and attract talent.

Let’s talk about flexible working hours specifically. To put it very simply, the traditional 9 to 5 model no longer works. From rush hours to clashes with other day-to-day duties (e.g. dropping children off at school), it is not compatible with the fast modern pace. Yet many companies hesitate to drop it as this is ‘the standard’.

But what if this standard is hurting your business? Similarly to how you replace inefficient processes, you shouldn’t think twice about replacing an approach if it doesn’t work. Ultimately, your goal is to create a flourishing company that is great to work for. Happy employees inevitably deliver better results. And it allows your business to grow.

Introducing Flexible Policy to Your Company

So, you’ve decided to grant your employees flexitime - that’s a wise decision. However, you are most likely at a loss of where to start the process from. Depending on your views, this may be as easy as simply announcing the fact to the company. Or as complicated as overthinking all possible scenarios this may cause. The secret is to find the middle ground. You don’t want to rush and leave things out nor do you want the implementation to take too long. And next, we will guide you towards striking the gold. 

Steps to Plan Flexible Working Implementation

One of the key factors stopping companies from implementing flexible working hours is the fear of employees abusing the system. That’s why you should only introduce the approach after thinking the preventative measures through. Here’s a step-by-step guide for you:

  1. Take time to plan what your flexible working policy will look like. Assess what your team want, and what your business needs are. Then set out new ways to measure performance. It can help to investigate what other companies are doing as well, especially those in your field.

  2. Only when you’re confident you’ve done enough research should you start drawing up your policy. This policy should support your employees as well as your company. For instance, ensuring business-supplied work phones aren’t used for personal reasons (e.g. games). You can also set guidelines to manage areas such as email response times, workload expectations and project management tools.

  3. Depending on the size of your business, you could test your policy with a control group. This will allow you to get feedback before rolling the changes out company-wide. You could even try it personally before testing it on your team. This way you can uncover the benefits of flexible working first-hand and address any shortcomings before introducing the policy to the team.

  4. You need buy-in from managers and they need to be trained on how to thrive working in a flexible environment. Particularly if they have no previous experience with it. Managers need to know how to motivate and provide feedback to employees so that productivity levels remain strong.

  5. You need to be fair to all staff by offering everyone flexible working options. Some people may prefer to be in the office and work normal office hours. But at least you’ve given them the choice.

Educate Your Teams

Don’t be misled by the title of this section. We are sure your staff doesn’t need an explanation of what flexible working is. However, since no company has the same approach to it, it’s important you let everyone on the team know what are the rules within your organisation. In other words, you need to educate them on the policy you’ve come up with. Ensure everyone understands what are the flexible working hours timeframes, the number of days they are expected to be in the office and other conditions outlined.

It is important to also emphasise what disciplinary measures will be taken in a scenario of misconduct. Be prepared for the opposition even though the policy is based on the preferences that were voiced by the majority. This is when you should take the 1:1 route. Discuss their concerns to see if you can work a solution out together. For example, if it’s a time-frame-related issue, you can sit down together and draft potential weekly schedules. All in all, you need to remain flexible yourself to successfully implement flexibility across the company. Therefore keep the communication channels open and actively seek feedback. 

Ensure You’ve Got the Right Setup

One of the key elements in making your business flexible is your technical stack. From easily accessible collaboration tools to communication channels, you need to build a hybrid workplace. It has to connect your teams regardless of where they are working from. Speaking of flexible working hours specifically, one tool you cannot go without is time tracking software. Whether it’s to ensure the staff are working the hours they are supposed to or to measure the overall team productivity for future project scheduling, a time management solution is among the essentials. A helpful benefit of it is also that very rarely the tool is focused on time tracing only. Depending on the product, you might be receiving a package of solutions needed to support your effort.

For example, while Timesheet Portal helps you keep tabs on the time your teams spend performing certain tasks, it also offers other modules. A file-sharing tool, holiday management solution, onboarding platform, a powerful pay and bill solution - to name a few. When it comes to software, our key recommendation is to stick to a lesser quantity of apps and avoid out-of-the-box solutions. While they are great for businesses that are only starting off, in the long run, they may begin limiting your growth. That’s why we designed our software to be highly customisable. Additionally, we allow our clients to build their own functionality package as opposed to set prices. And we offer an easy way to upgrade as they grow.

What is Needed for a Successful Implementation of Flexible Working Hours?

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of the right setup, you might feel at a loss for what exact tools you need. There is no correct answer. Every business is different, and therefore the processes and requirements are also varied. However, while a time-tracking solution is a must-have, it’s not the only thing you need. There are a couple more essential tech tools needed to support the flexible working hours approach. 

Centralised Collaboration Platform

There’s a chance communication and therefore collaboration between your employees will pose a challenge. It depends on the time frame provided for flexible hours, the geographical location of your teams and many other factors. Regardless of the circumstances, if you’re considering implementing a flexible approach, you will need a designated collaboration platform. First of all, it will serve as a channel for communication. Whether in real-time or via tracked project updates. Secondly, it will be the hub for sharing files and therefore creating transparency and alignment across the teams. Not to mention the convenience factor of having centralised file storage as opposed to long email threads.

If your employees work remotely, a platform that enables access and editing rights to several users simultaneously is a must. Simply put, it will smoothen the process of collaboration by removing back-and-forths via emails or instant messengers. Those are places where human errors such as not adding someone to the conversation and simple overlooking happen. When the updates and edits are tracked, it’s easy to trace them back to the person and identify what went wrong. It is also easy to revert back to the non-edited version if such is needed. Or to have a discussion in regard to proposed edits without replacing the original version. In other words, adopting a centralised collaboration platform means the limitations of time and location differences will be significantly reduced. 

Convenient and Efficient Communication Channels

While a collaboration tool helps massively to keep the ball rolling, it shouldn’t be mistaken for a communication channel. It needs to be remembered that written communication is easier to misconstruct. This is because we can’t see the other party’s facial expressions, body language, or hear their exact tone. Because of this, it’s important you provide your team members with a variety of channels to communicate on. While you do need your software to support video and voice calls, you shouldn’t entirely dismiss written communication either. There are instances at which email exchanges are inevitable. Although for quicker internal communication we also encourage the use of instant messenger. We personally favour Slack - it supports calls, videos, IMs, file sharing and many more.

However, when it comes to communication, you need to think outside the box. The number of channels is wider than what we traditionally assume. For example, timesheets also make a good tool for the teams to communicate via. While there’s no direct conversation going on, team members get updated on where progress-wise others are. Such visibility allows them to either adjust their own schedule or know when their assistance is needed without being chased. As a communication channel, timesheets also lead to teams sharing insights from different contexts. That can later be applied towards bettering overall processes. 

Time Tracking Software

We’ve already hinted in the last paragraph that the last but not least is a time tracking solution. While we are sure you want and do trust your employees, it’s a proven fact that a high percentage of workers end up either procrastinating or occupied by non-work-related tasks. With both the hybrid/remote work models and the implementation of flexible working hours, it can become difficult to have a clear view of your team’s hours. It puts you in a particularly tricky situation if your company works on an internal hourly rate. Or if it utilises an hourly retainer system for the clients. Simply put, the employee would be getting paid for the hours they haven’t worked. Some may argue that as long as the deliverables meet the expected quality and fit within the set deadlines, you shouldn’t worry. But you are still losing money. Money that you could be earning if the said employee was doing something progress-driven. And some more if they utilise the spare time upon early completion.

We are not implying that you should be micromanaging your staff and demanding they work every second of the day. However, having a holistic view of both teams and individual time expenditure across the company can help you adjust your internal strategies. Such as finding a more optimal time frame for flexible working hours. For example, an observation of your team productivity in accordance with the time tracked might show the peak of team performance after lunch hours. This would suggest your employees work better at the later time of the day. You should offer them an option to start and finish work later, so they can stay at that peak for longer. Additionally, time tracking software may expose inefficient processes that consume a lot of time and require a review. Who knows, maybe a touch of automation can free up an hour or two of your staff’s time?

Solve Absenteeism for Good

Absenteeism or regular absence without a good reason costs companies billions every year. Unfortunately, this malpractice cannot be written off as simple tardiness. Very often the issue is far more deep-rooted. Therefore disciplinary measures aren’t likely to prevent it, especially if the matters are outside of the employee’s control. Such examples would be inefficient commuting situations, care for the children or elderly, or family issues. While these are external factors leading to absenteeism, they can be addressed and therefore prevent loss of money - by simply introducing flexibility.

For example, if your employee is constantly late or absent because of public transport issues, it might be wise to offer them a flexible working hours scheme. It would work better with their transportation schedule. Or, if they’re a single parent, they might appreciate working hours that are in tandem with their child’s school. In other words, the best way of solving absenteeism is to approach it from the point of empathy and understanding. Focus on offering viable solutions that put your staff in control. The tricky part, however, is identifying whether you’re dealing with absenteeism patterns or just unfortunate circumstances. This is another instance at which time tracking software such as Timesheet Portal comes in handy.

Key Takeaway 

The pandemic has introduced workplace flexibility as a necessity instead of a work perk. This has changed the work landscape forever. Having experienced being in control of their productivity time and favourable circumstances, most employees refuse to go back to the traditional 9-to-5 office routine. Many are actively expressing their willingness to switch jobs if the flexible working conditions are to be cancelled. This means that we are unlikely to return to the old work model. Therefore the future lies within flexibility.

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to provide an environment which provides such flexibility. Be it the implementation of flexible working hours, a hybrid office approach or a mixture of both. There’s a lot of preparation to be done for it to be functional. At the end of the day, however, the effort will be worth it. Not only will it lead to better talent attraction and retention, but help prevent costly issues such as absenteeism.

The digital solutions you adopt to support company flexibility will serve you well in optimising other areas of your business. For example, a time tracking software. In addition to tracking your team’s productivity, it also speeds up your pay and bill processes. It can lead to better project estimates and point out outdated processes.

The future is flexible. Let’s explore it together.

Free trial

See for yourself how you can save time and money. Enter your details below for a free 30 day no-obligation trial.
Cyber Essentials logo Cyber Essentials Plus logo

Timesheet Portal online software provided by Anfold Software Ltd, a registered company in the UK.