The term flexible working means Flexible working’ is a phrase that describes any working pattern adapted to suit workers needs. Flexibility is the The ability of an organisation to adapt the size, composition, responsiveness and cost of the people inputs required to achieve organisational objectives (Pilbeam and Corbridge, 2010). There are different forms of flexibility which are numerical flexibility, functional flexibility, financial flexibility, locational flexibility and temporal flexibility. Numerical flexibility is where employers can change the size of their workforce as their labour requirements change.
Functional flexibility is the ability of an organization to move employees to other duties or responsibilities within the company. Locational flexibility is that employees can work from home instead of coming to the office. Types of temporal flexibility are Part time working, home working, job Sharing, term time working, annual Hours Zero hours, 9 day fortnight/compressed hours. The table below shows that “Between 2006 and 2011 there was a general increase across all modes of flexible working (Table 2). Teleworking (TN0910050S) saw the greatest rise, being offered by 14% of employers in 2006 and 59% in 2011.
This echoes trends in flexible working observed in the UK as well as the rest of Europe (EU1101011D). The popularity of teleworking has been boosted by improvements in information communication technologies (ICT) and its attractiveness to the smallest companies (69% offer this form of flexible working)”. (ewco 2011) Source: CBI/Harvey Nash (2011) “The Third Work-Life Balance Employer Survey found that the vast majority (92 per cent) of employers would consider a request to change a working pattern from any employee despite legislation only requiring employers to do so from some employees.
Amongst those employers where a request had been made in the previous 12 months, just nine per cent said they had turned down any requests. The survey reported that employers continue to hold predominantly positive attitudes towards work-life balance and to perceive its benefits for employees and workplaces alike, although it is clear that most employers feel that the implementation of flexible working practices is not always easy, and should not be expected by employees where it would cause disruption to the business (Family Friendly Working Hours Taskforce 2008).
The Atkinson’s Flexible Firm Model is a technique used by the managers of a company to organize the work place with the help of different forms of flexibility to efficiently make full use of its work force. The model is based on the principle of dividing the work force into core and peripheral groups. The core group consists of workers that are vital to the company, the work force is functionally flexible and are very difficult to replace because of some special skills, knowledge about a product or market and experience in the field.
The peripheral group consists of workers who are numerically flexible. This because of the worker in this group can be replaced easily, the supply in labour market is high, they were only needed for a specific task or they might be only needed in the peak time of a business. For a worker it is better to be of the core than the periphery as they would have job security, improved conditions of work and a better pay rate as they cannot be replaced easily. The model also shows how important can the external workers be for the business.
For example sub contracted workers like the cleaning staff of an airline are not core part of the company but they are important in running of the business (oxford human resource management). According to BT Case study,” BT demonstrates the power of flexible working as it has adapted the way it manages people and the way they work to stay competitive and responsive. The company has what is believed to be one of the largest flexible working projects in Europe – the BT Work style project. Flexible working is available to almost everyone in BT, and BT now has over 70,000 flexible workers ,from senior managers to contact centre staff. At BT, flexible working is business as usual. Already seven out of 10 people work flexibly and nearly 10% are home based. It has saved the company millions in terms of increased productivity and cut costs. It has also motivated our people and released more potential. ” Sir Christopher Bland, Chairman, BT Group (BT group). Flexible working both meets the needs of employees and improves companies’ capacity to serve customers – to optimise communications, reduce response times, improve service and support, and contribute to the overall customer experience – and, in doing so, it secures competitive advantage.
See figure 1 below This clearly shows that BT has used flexible working and gained a lot from it, BT used compressed hours to lengthen engineers’ days which led to high level of job completion & customer satisfaction and engineers enjoyed half day off a week which creates motivation among the employees. : British gas has been using flexible working for a long time and it has been their key element in business strategy. British gas offers its employees different types of flexible working which has enabled the company to offer 24 hour service for its customers.
British gas flexible working provisions include allowing university students to study, letting people work longer or shorter hours, part-time and full-time roles, flexible hours to allow for childcare, and remote working and they also support home working for some employees. Benefits of offering flexible working for British Gas are that they want to attract and retain the best talent, regardless of background and responsibilities and they want a diverse workforce that reflects community and customer base.
Offering flexible working increases employee’s loyalty the brand and provides a better environment to work. British Gas has been chosen as one of the Top 50 Great Places to Work for the 3rd year running rising four places to number 26 in the list (British Gas 2012). Marks and spencer revised their working in February 2010 to give greater emphasis to the requirement for line managers to give all formal flexible working requests due consideration, and agree those requests that are beneficial to both company and the employee.
Marks and spencer currently supports these types of flexible working, part-time working, job-sharing, term-time working and home working on a part-time basis depending on the job, flexible retirement options and career leave of up to nine unpaid months to study. Marks and spencer are committed to employee engagement and believe that flexible working contributes to their levels of engagement. Other benefits include attraction of the best talent, retention of our existing talent, and productivity across the business, motivation to give great service increased morale.
All these factors lead to better quality service being offered to its customers. (Marks and Spencer plc 2013). Accenture offers the following flexible working provisions flexible hours’ reconfiguration of existing hours over contractual number of days, part-time working, and job-sharing, home-enabled working leave of absence policy: allowing employees to take unpaid leave to pursue activities outside of the working environment. The company also makes full use of multiple flexible working arrangements simultaneously, and any type of flexible working is available to each level f employees. (CIPD 2012) Accenture has seven business reasons to create a more flexible, supportive work environment which are to attract and retain a broad range of talented people, to raise morale and increase job satisfaction, to increase productivity and improve business results to enhance commitment and engagement and to cut health care costs and last to attract investors. More than 80% of Accenture employees say that achieving work–life balance is important.
Fifty-two per cent of Accenture UK employees also said they are already working flexibly at Accenture and these 52% show increased levels of engagement (2013 Accenture). Companies offer flexibility to its workers as they are benefited from it but there are some draw backs as well like some employers that offer flexible working are doing it on case by case basis rather than making it general work practice, an employee that needs flexible working can come to the employer but it is up to the employer to agree or disagree.
When the employer approves or disapproves the employees request it creates internal conflict among employees. If an employee finds it unfair that some employees can work flexibly and some cannot, they feel that some workers are preferred more over them which creates conflict and it leads to de-motivated workers causing the standard of work done by them to be less efficient. Although companies with flextime often use core hours to encourage teamwork, employees that work inconsistent schedules cannot spend as much time in collaboration with co-workers as employees that work the same hours.
Employees may only have a few hours a day for this collaboration. In some workplaces, work team communication takes place in an ongoing and spontaneous fashion that is hard to limit to just a few hours. Flextime can slow down the pace of work team production because of this restricted collaboration (Kokemuller 2013). The costs involved in administering flexible are also high which restricts small businesses to adapt it. Employees will not be in work at certain times and therefore it may not be suitable for organisations where continuous cover is necessary.
Another disadvantage is that if the offices are open for a longer period, it may lead to increased costs for lighting and heating. Following are the barriers that businesses have to face to create a flexible working condition for its employees Operational pressures, customer/service requirements, line managers’ ability to effectively manage flexible workers, line management attitudes, accommodating employee requests for flexibility and financial constraints. Operational pressures: one of the drawbacks is operational pressure which causes stress (CIPD, 2012).?
Communication problems: communication problems can hinder productivity with flexible working because relevant information doesn’t get to the employee (CIPD, 2012). Customer and service requirement: when there is high service requirement where staff need to deal with customers it makes flexibility almost impossible (CIPD, 2006). Flexible working is an important aspect in business as there are many benefits. Flexible working is now being practiced by large companies and it has increased significantly.
We have seen that how companies like British Gas, Marks and Spencer and Accenture have used flexible working to define its business. Companies have benefited by getting efficient staff, increased productivity and higher levels of motivation of its workers. There are some barriers and one of the main reasons is operational pressure. Thus today use of flexible working is very important for a company’s success. However there are some drawbacks as well like companies have to face increased costs which restrict small businesses to adapt to flexible working. oth employee and employer are benefited from it, advantages of flexible working to employees are Opportunity to achieve a work life balance, increased satisfaction and higher motivation levels. Whereas the benefits to employers are higher productivity, along with improved customer service, reduced absenteeism, lower staff turnover, improved recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce, raised motivation/engagement and enhanced employer branding as employer of choice. Thus we can see that the benefits of working flexibly can benefit the company and it is also good for its workers.