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Everything you need to know about flexible working

In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, remote and flexible working quickly became the new norm.

Lockdown restrictions and childcare responsibilities meant that many people needed a more dynamic approach to their work that fits in with everyday life.

Following overwhelmingly positive employee feedback, many businesses are still promoting flexibility in the workplace, even with the world slowly returning to normal.

What is flexible working?

In a traditional workplace setting, employees typically clock in around 9am, spend roughly eight hours working (with an hour for lunch), and return home at about 6pm.

Flexible working disrupts this idea and offers a different approach to the working day. Jobs with flexible hours allow employees to choose a schedule that better suits their needs in an environment that works for them.

Types of flexible working

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There are several types of flexible working, allowing employees to choose which style best fits their needs.

Flexi time

Flexible working usually involves not sticking to a rigid schedule with specified hours, often known as flexi time.

Flexi time can mean something different depending on the company. Some workplaces require employees to be present within a specific timeframe. In contrast, internationally-based companies may only require their staff to work a certain number of hours per week at whatever time suits them.

Another element of flexi time is compressed hours, which involves working full-time over fewer days. This approach isn’t for everyone, as it often means working long into the evening on the days worked. However, the accumulated hours off can be incredibly beneficial in providing a more significant rest and time for other interests.

Remote working

Work from home and flexible hours often go hand in hand. Following the UK lockdowns, 50 of the country’s biggest employers have said they have no plans to return all staff to the office full-time.

Some employees now work remotely full-time, most choosing to do this from home. However, some take this as an opportunity to sample local coffee shops or co-working spaces.

Other companies allow employees to work remotely worldwide, meaning people can combine work with travel and exploration.

Hybrid working

One of the most popular types of flexible working is hybrid. This style involves a combination of working remotely as well as in the office, usually on alternating days.

Many see this as an excellent way to experience the social elements of working in the office while also enjoying the flexibility of working from home.

Job sharing

Job sharing involves two or more people sharing the same job but splitting the hours. This type of flexible working usually means the employees work part-time or less, with the salary reflecting this.

Job sharing can be a desirable temporary measure, especially if the staff member has caring responsibilities or wishes to take time away from full-time work.

Flexible working examples

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Employees with a flexible schedule may take a more extended lunch break and work later in the day instead.

If going into the office, they could arrive and leave earlier, giving more time for after-work commitments or hobbies in the evening.

Flexible working practices allow employees to attend medical appointments during the day, which is particularly helpful for someone with a long-term health condition.

Remote, flexible workers could work from different locations throughout the day and week, perhaps choosing to be at home for virtual meetings and in coffee shops or libraries when a change of scenery is needed.

Workation

Some companies also allow flexible remote workers to work anywhere in the world, prompting the rise of the ‘workation.’ Remote staff take a break from their regular work-from-home setup and head away to a new location to refresh.

‘Work-from-hotel’ is an offshoot of this idea — people enjoy the benefits of hotel amenities and work from their suite or coworking space.

How to make a flexible working request

All employees have a legal right to request flexible work, and you can make two types of flexible working requests — statutory and non-statutory.

Before you decide which route to take, check with your employer regarding their flexible working policy. They may already have a flexible working scheme available for employees.

Employers will assess the advantages and disadvantages of your flexible working request, usually holding a meeting with the employee to discuss these. In the case of a statutory request, employers will offer an appeal process if the request is denied.

Non-statutory

Non-statutory requests are best if you want to try out flexible working or only need the arrangements for a short period.

Employees don’t have to meet any eligibility criteria and can make unlimited requests yearly. Decisions may also be made quicker, ideal if you need to start a new working pattern straight away.

When writing a non-statutory flexible working request, make sure to include:

  • The working pattern you require
  • The date you need it to start
  • How the change will affect your employer and colleagues, and any solutions for this
  • Why you are making the request, e.g., caring commitments or religious reasons

Statutory

Statutory flexible working requests can be made once you’ve worked for your employer for more than 26 consecutive weeks. They are best if your employer doesn’t have a flexible working scheme or their policy doesn’t meet your flexible working needs.

You can only make one request per year. However, if your employer refuses your request, you may be able to claim in the employment tribunal under the law on flexible working.

Statutory flexible working requests can take up to three months to be approved, so it’s best to start planning the request and speak to your employer early.


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