Written by Michael Hibberd and

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One of the biggest changes workplaces have seen in recent years has been the greater use of flexibility in the workplace and remote working.

A survey by YouGov earlier this year revealed some interesting findings, including that only 6% of those who responded were working the traditional hours of 9:00-5:00. The report also showed a desire for staff to start (and finish) work earlier, with the most popular option being 8:00-4:00.

Many employees now use flexible working to ensure they can balance their commitments and responsibilities both in and out of work. The most common means of flexible working are amended hours and/or job sharing. With the rise in households where both parents are in employment (currently around 72.5%) for employees with childcare responsibilities, flexible working can be an important consideration when considering job opportunities.

There are many cited benefits to flexible working, including increased productivity, time saved in commuting to work, improved mental health and increased staff morale.

However, the use of remote working relies on the technology being in place to facilitate this. Potential risks of remote working include that (if the technology goes wrong) staff can feel disengaged from their colleagues and their career development is being restricted, given the lack of interactive face to face time- these are issues managers need to be aware of.

In addition, reports on flexible working often cite a perception felt by flexible workers that they need to proactively demonstrate they are working when at home (in contrast to when working in the office) and some even cite that they feel a perception that they are less serious about their careers. Another key challenge for businesses is to ensure those working from home on more flexible hours are aware they can switch off from work outside of their working hours.

While the law provides legal criteria to requesting flexible working (the employee must have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service, only one request can be made in a 12-month period and an employer must deal with the request reasonably, only being able to reject it for one of eight prescribed business reasons), employers may want to consider flexible working in any event to increase staff morale. However, since remote working has technological difficulties, investment needs to be made into the IT infrastructure to ensure employees can be productive and are not faced with (easily avoidable) barriers hampering their productivity.

10th October 2018