How to Introduce Flexible Working


Are you worried about the effects on your business following the government’s decision to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees? If you don’t have a policy to allow employees to request flexible working you may well be concerned.

Flexible Working – The Law

The current law allows parents with children under 17 (or 18 if disabled) and carers to request a change to their working hours, the times they work or where they work (this includes the right to request to work from home).

The Benefits of Flexible Working

Some employers already extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, and they have found that workers on flexible contracts tend to be more emotionally engaged, more satisfied with their work, more likely to speak positively about their employer and less likely to quit.

Resistance to Flexible Working

All of this makes me wonder why more employers aren’t offering flexible working to all staff. I’ve worked with managers that like close proximity with their team, who believe that working from home means cooking the dinner and ironing the clothes while occasionally checking emails, or managers who think part time working means half a job done badly, so for these managers it is easy to see how they would resist remote working.

Ultimately humans enjoy autonomy, having the ability to work from home shows trust and the majority of people repay that trust by working even harder. Working part time hours instead of full time can actually increase productivity, I know when I have worked half days I get more done in a morning than I might normally.

Helping Managers Adapt to Flexible Working

Like it or not the law will change and that means managers must adapt or they will have a negative approach to anyone working flexibly which is really not good for business (consider the cost of a claim for constructive dismissal). So how can you help your managers to change the way they think about flexible working?

How To Introduce Flexible Working

  • Draft your policy and procedure for handling requests.
  • Tell your managers about the legislation. Lunch and learn sessions are great for making managers aware of new policies and procedures and getting them talking.
  • Listen – don’t presume to know what managers are thinking. Using a lunch and learn session to listen to what your managers concerns are will give you insights into what your potential issues will be. This is not a time to be dismissive of the concerns raised, they are genuine concerns.
  • Encourage open exploration of the issues – if a manager is worried about reduced productivity talk about how you currently measure productivity, would that need to change? I doubt it if you have decent performance management in place, but managers may need to be guided to come to that conclusion. Don’t dismiss their concerns or give all the answers, you don’t need a sledgehammer to crack this nut, just a bit of patience.
  • Respond to feedback – be open to making adjustments to the policy and procedure. You never know, managers may have ideas for other ways of working flexibly that may not be part of the legislation but you may want to consider.
  • Create the final policy – you may decide another short meeting with managers is needed before publishing the policy. It depends entirely on how the first one went, but be prepared to meet again, especially if there was a lot of resistance first time as some people just need a little bit of time to reflect and you may be surprised at the difference at a second meeting.
  • Publish the policy and inform staff in your usual way.
  • Support managers to implement changes.

The fact is you are not going to receive hundreds of requests to work from home. The businesses that currently offer flexible working to all employees enjoy the benefits of closer working relationships – you can too!

AboutHR can help to ensure your managers have the skills to meet the challenges faced by the demands of the modern workforce. Call today on 01954 715406.


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