How to Make Flexible Working Work

Your people

How do you make flexible working work for your small business? Timewise gave us their tips for successfully putting flexible working into practice.

What is flexible working

After Covid, all of us are familiar with the term ‘hybrid’ working. Hybrid working – which is when you split your time between home and the office – has become commonplace.

We often hear of people thinking that offering hybrid working means that they offer flexible working. But this is not the case. Flexible working is much more, as it includes:

  • Hybrid working
  • Working from home
  • Working part-time
  • Working compressed hours
  • Flexitime (employee choses start and end work hours but works certain ‘core hours’)
  • Job share

Why have flexible working?

Flexible working can improve the retention and progression of existing staff, as well as attract future talent. It’s also core to helping you achieve your diversity and inclusion goals. For some people, the ability to work flexibly is critical. Many women, older workers, single parents and people with physical disabilities or mental health issues can only work if they can find a part-time or flexible role. As a result, they can end up stuck in low-paid jobs or unable to work at all.

Having flexible working means that you can better reflect our society and helps bring in different experiences and ideas.

The law around flexible working

In early 2024 there will be a change in legislation around flexible working called ‘Day One Flex’. This will mean that the right to ask for flexible working will be given to the employee from the first day in a new role, rather than after 26 weeks into their job. The ‘Day One Flex’ is also available to existing employees. Timewise partnered with Opinium to survey 4,000 UK workers and the results showed that 40% of workers said they would consider using the new rights in an existing role and 49% saying they would consider taking advantage of the new Day One Flex rights in a new role. Younger works, parents, carers and people from minority ethnic groups were amongst the most likely to use the new rights to ask for flexible working on Day One. You can learn more about their findings here.

How to talk about your flexible working in job adverts

With the incoming legislative change, employers understandably want to know how to articulate flexible working within the wording of their job adverts. Timewise’s specialist jobsite, Timewise Jobs, has been helping employers recruit talented and experienced staff for more than a decade. By analysing the search behaviour of more than 1,000 of its candidates, they found that nearly half won’t apply to a role when they see the catch-all phrase: ‘open to flex’.

So if you’re interested in attracting flexible working candidates you need to be more specific about your offers, for example, saying you’re open to late starts and early finishes or 4 days per week with some home working, or open to job share. Showing you have thought through what flexibility options are available makes a difference – and will help you make that hire. You can see the full report here.

Top tips on making flexible working ‘work’

With so many employees interested in flexible working, it’s important to understand how to make it work in your organisation.

  • Change mindsets – don’t see flexible working as a ‘cost’ but as an opportunity
  • Be clear on what flexible working means for your organisation
  • Try not to go in with preconceptions. Start with asking what your employees want and listen to what your employees tell you they need
  • You won’t have a one-size-fits-all for all your employees, but what can you do to make sure that everyone benefits from
  • Support your line-managers to be able to have good conversations and make good decisions.

You can find more insights into how businesses Wickes and Zurich UK approached flexible working and their lessons learnt here.

If you work in an industry where you think it won’t ‘work’, take a look at Timewise’ successful pilots in the construction, film and television, and social care sectors. Where you have different working environments with different roles and sites, it’s important to be clear that flexible working patterns will not be able to be the same. However, while all options might not be on the table for all roles, everyone (frontline workers included) should have some form of flexibility available to them. The key to unlocking greater work-life balance and a better sense of wellbeing, is through giving employees more input and control into their ways of working.

Our last piece of advice is that you can always pilot a new way of working for your team. Make sure to get input from your employees prior, during and after the pilot. Evaluate how it went and make the use of the learning to be used for future trials or wider roll out.

Further links

Timewise is a social enterprise that helps create stronger, more inclusive workplaces, powered by flexible working. They support SMEs by running consultancy and training opportunities, whilst sharing their learnings. It also runs a jobsite for part time and flexible roles and can help attract skilled candidates to your vacancies.

This was updated in October 2023 by Heart of the City with the kind help of Timewise. We’ve created these resources for individual SMEs to use. None of our content is to be adapted, reused or repurposed for commercial use.