Requesting flexible working is a legal right for people in certin countries, which means employers have prescribed procedures to follow when considering these arrangements:
- Australia’s government guide on flexible working arrangements
- The UK’s government guide on flexible working arrangements
- America is falling behind, with only a few states putting in place any federal policy around flexible working.
But leading employers aren’t limiting themselves to minimum standards. Instead, they’re embracing flexible working to its fullest and using it to attract, retain, and benefit from a diverse range of talented candidates — just ask the employers we endorse and support as great workplaces for all women.
To help you and your company also reap the rewards of a flexible working policy, we’ve collated a clear list of the best and next practices that leading employers now have in place.
At its best, flexible working allows employees to work within hours, patterns, or locations that suit their needs. The result of flexible working is a healthy work-life balance, which means employees bring their best selves to work — wherever that may be.
Common types of flexible working arrangements:
- Remote working: performing a role at home or somewhere else offsite, such as a café or co-working space.
- Job sharing: when two or more employees share the hours of one full-time position.
- Flexitime: this can be simply setting their own start and finish times or having complete autonomy over how and when they complete their weekly workload.
- Part-time work: the most popular form of flexible working, these employees perform and are paid for fewer hours than those in full-time roles.
- Semester-time work: allows employees to take paid or unpaid leave during the school vacation (in addition to their normal paid time off).
- Compressed working hours: reallocating the working week into fewer but longer blocks of time, such as working longer hours Monday to Thursday in order to gain Friday off.
- Reduced working weeks: abandons the traditional five-day working week and sees employees work fewer days for the same pay. For example, WORK180 employees get every other Friday off — at full pay!
““During the pandemic, Gemma (my fellow CEO) and I introduced a nine-day fortnight at WORK180. While ourteam was already fully flexible — working whenever and wherever works for them — we wanted to ensure everyone had the time they needed to cope with the potential increase in domestic and mental pressures caused by the pandemic. We’ve received great feedback so far and productivity is unimpacted, which is a great ‘silver lining’ from COVID-19 for us. My advice for other employers would be to extend trust to employees from day one.” Valeria Ignatieva, Co-Founder and CEO of WORK180
These can be offered both formally (as part of their regular working week) and informally (as an option to be taken when needed). For example, while a working parent may choose to be formally flexible so they can work around their children’s schooling, other employees may use flexitime informally for the occasional personal commitment, like doctor’s appointments or sporting pursuits.
“It’s not efficient or effective to have great women join you and then throw away all that investment in their passion for your company, the training and development, the history they have with the organization, just because you can’t be smart enough to find the way to have flexible working.” Diane Smith-Gander AO on episode five, series two of the Equality Talks podcast
1. Offer a range of flexible options
Flexible working is all about creating a workplace and pattern that helps the employee be the best they can be. And as each employee is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to flexible working. For this reason, it’s recommended that workplaces offer a range of flexible options.
At a minimum, best practice is to offer several of these options. However, to get the most out of flexible working, we recommend being open to almost any arrangement — as long as it works for the employee, their team, and your organization.
2. Assume a role is flexible until proven otherwise
Traditionally, employers have tended to ask ‘why’ make a role flexible. But with benefits such as increased productivity, innovation and retention rates, it’s clear that employers should actually be asking ‘why not’.
Almost all roles can be adapted — and benefit from — some form of flexibility, and at all levels. In fact, the progressive employer TE Connectivity introduced a range of alternative flexible work arrangements for site workers around the world, including ‘Flexible Fridays’ and ‘Dress for Your Day.’ The results were reportedly ‘outstanding’, with an increase in both productivity and engagement!
“I can have a packed morning full of meetings, yet still make time for a Mother’s Day breakfast at my daughter’s school. I love that I work at a place that creates an environment where I can be both!”
Malavika Sagar, Vice President HumanResources, Transportation Solutions Segment at TE Connectivity
3. Put more than just a flexible working policy in place
Whether you’re allowing teams to work remotely or introducing a four-day work week, an effective flexible workplace doesn’t just happen; organizations with successful flexible working have a formal policy or guidelines, and a clear strategy in place. This not only provides a focus for the business and the opportunity to measure the policy’s impact, it also gives candidates and employees the confidence to request and access flexible working.
Flexible working has an unwarranted stigma attached that can cause many to worry about being seen as uncommitted or unambitious. For this reason, it’s not enough to just have guidelines or a policy in place; a positive attitude towards flexibility must be ingrained in the company culture. This can be done through regular reminders of flexible arrangements, workshops or training sessions, and by encouraging employees to promote the benefits they’ve experienced.
Top tip: A great way to make your commitment to flexible working clear is by advertising your roles on the WORK180 platform, where you can show all the arrangements you offer.
4. Showcase leadership support
Buy-in from the CEO and senior leadership is essential. This means they must truly understand the benefits of flexible working so they can wholeheartedly promote and support the use of what’s on offer. Without this buy-in, the stigma attached to flexible working is more likely to remain.
The powerful impact of such a positive attitude from leadership can be seen at Reward Gateway. Its CEO’s proactive endorsement of flexibility is resulting in a better work-life balance, supporting gender equality, and ultimately retaining valuable employees for the long term.
“Our CEO has a mandate that no-one is to miss an important family event. Straight away that gives you permission to be at a parent-teacher evening or something important the kids are doing, without even questioning it.”
James Edwards, Group Support & Implementation Director at Reward Gateway
5. Regular training and support
Set your employees up for success by providing them with clear guidance at every step. For many Endorsed Employers, this starts by creating an actual guide for employees on the formal or informal steps they need to take to request flexible working arrangements. Great examples also include helpful tips, such as preparing answers to the primary question managers will want to know: how will flexible working benefit you, your team, and the organization as a whole?
As well as providing remote employees with the physical tools to thrive wherever they work, it’s important to run training sessions that equip everyone with the knowledge they need to get the most out of flexible working. We also recommend facilitating workshops in which teams can address any issues they may be facing. These sessions should be provided alongside regular opportunities to talk to their manager, who has also been adequately prepared to support flexible employees.
6. Tackling unconscious bias
It’s reported that men and women are almost equal in their need for flexibility, and yet a study by Bain & Company showed that men were twice as likely as women to have requests for flexible work hours denied.
Gender bias is just one of the many results of social stereotypes standing in the way of true flexibility for all. Despite their best intentions, other issues such as ageism and parental status can also unintentionally cloud the judgment of decision-makers. For this reason, companies that are truly committed to offering flexible working to all employees invest time and effort into tackling such bias. While this can include unconscious bias training (UBT), that alone is not enough; all messaging must be thoroughly reinforced with specific and systematic action against bias at all levels of the organization.
Does your flexible working policy already follow these best practices?
Great work, your organization could be ready to be recognized and supported as a WORK180 Endorsed Employer.
And for those employers who really want to stand out from the crowd and create a leading flexible working policy, here are some of the next practices we’re seeing trailblazing employers implement…
1. Creating a carer-friendly workplace
According to research by the Harvard Business School, 73% of employees report being an unpaid carer (also known as an informal caregiver). So despite only 28% openly divulging this information for fear of it negatively impacting their careers, it’s highly likely that such responsibilities are impacting one or more of your employees.
To facilitate and cope with their caring duties, many valuable employees reduce their hours, relinquish career opportunities, and 32% even report leaving a job altogether. This means employers are losing valuable team members unnecessarily.
To nurture and retain those impacted, leading organizations are creating a career-friendly culture; this means their employees are actively encouraged by both managers and peers to make flexible arrangements that will help them thrive both at work and at home. Often, there is also an enhanced focus on the mental wellbeing of these employees.
Top tip: You can find expert guidance on how to support carers by visiting www.caregiver.org
2. Minimizing the impact of the menopause
The menopausal transition is finally emerging as an important workplace issue. And as the number of employed women increases, leading employers are working to retain talented and experienced team members by confronting the challenges this transition can pose.
Alongside awareness efforts, sensitivity training, and culture change management, this includes implementing flexible working policies for those suffering from menopausal symptoms. Here are the key flexibility offerings suggested in the Menopause Information Pack for Organizations:
- Flexible start and finish time
- Flexible distribution of hours across working weeks
- Full-time to part-time options
- Remote working opportunities
- No extended periods without a planned non-working day (for shift workers)
The resource also suggests ways to normalize flexible working for those transitioning, such as adding photos of menopausal-age women to flexible working policy materials. To find out more about creating a menopausal-friendly workplace, download the MIPO’s handy checklist.
Top tip: If your company is yet to put in place a supportive menopause policy, we also recommend reading this helpful guide from WORK180 partner Henpicked: How to write a menopause policy.
3. Aiding the gender affirmation journey
From hormone therapy and surgical procedures to the emotional challenges of changing the way the world sees you, the gender affirmation journey can be both physically and mentally arduous. As such, any support offered by employers can be the difference between talented team members staying or leaving the workforce.
Thankfully, in more recent years, trailblazing organizations are recognizing the role they can play in supporting people on their gender affirmation journey — and flexible working plays a big part. For example, the Australian Endorsed Employer Liberty Financial has highlighted flexible working as part of their Gender Affirmation Policy and even provides an additional 10 days of paid special leave.
One last tip: Ask employees what they need
As flexibility is increasingly seen as a necessity as opposed to a perk, innovation is needed to stand out as a flexible employer. Fortunately, these innovative ideas can often be found just by asking employees what they need. Then, all organizations need to do is ask: why not?
Ready to show candidates what you have to offer?
Organizations’ benefits and policies were once kept hidden in a dusty HR draw. Today, top candidates expect to see what an employer has to offer before they even apply for a role. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why around 100,000 women a month use [WORK180’s transparent job board]https://us.work180.co/job-search) to find their next role.
And WORK180 doesn’t just advertise great workplaces for women — we help create them too! To learn more about how we can help your DEI initiatives and raise your company’s profile as an employer of choice, visit our Why WORK180 page today.