Making the business case for flexible working

The push for flexible working from an increasingly diverse workforce will help companies to meet the needs of customers outside...

The push for flexible working from an increasingly diverse workforce will help companies to meet the needs of customers outside the traditional hours of nine to five, said employment lawyer Ian Tranter.

"Businesses need to see that flexible working is an opportunity and that it makes good commercial sense," said Tranter, a partner at law firm Hammonds. "The business case can be compelling."

He added that a flexible workforce could make better use of office premises and equipment, which are often under-used outside standard working hours. Home working can also reduce company overheads.

But for flexible working to run smoothly organisations need to take extra care when planning major projects or at busy times in the year.

Margaret Smith, chief executive of CIO-Connect, the networking group for IT directors, said companies need to plan for when there will be a heavy demand for staff.

"There will be peaks of workload for most IT staff," said Smith."This will happen when projects are being implemented or when operational issues occur. Good resource planning is imperative."

Senior managers should also set an example to the rest of the staff by working regular hours and making sure they have a healthy work/life balance.

Putting an end to the long-hours culture is important if employers want their workers to be productive, said George Cox, chairman of the Design Council and an IT industry veteran.

Long hours with employees regularly taking work home can be counterproductive, said Cox, who was speaking at Computer Weekly's Best Places to Work in IT Awards ceremony.

Proof of this came during the oil crises of the 1970s, when statistics showed that the productivity of the UK did not suffer when firms were forced to work a three-day week, Cox said.

"And if you cannot take work home with you, you will be forced to do it during the day, or to delegate," he added.

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Five steps to healthy work/life balance

  • Identify the business need and show colleagues how it will benefit the business and the workforce
  • Match policy to specific operational needs, such as employee and business priorities and the impact on customers – do not simply copy what other employers are doing
  • Measure staff performance on outcomes, not on their presence in the office alone
  • Develop clear guidelines to ensure fairness, promote the policy and get commitment from line managers
  • Lead from the top – find a senior champion who benefits from a good work/life balance.

Source: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

This was last published in March 2005

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