How to Find the Flexible Work Solutions that Fit
Flexible working is well on its way to becoming the norm and was fairly commonplace in charities even before the pandemic. With many of the remaining perceived barriers to flexible working now broken down by the last few years, more and more people are asking their employers for flexible work solutions.
Employers reap the benefits of this shift: when done right, flexible working improves staff attraction, retention, performance and wellbeing. But flex comes in many different forms, so it’s time to start thinking beyond home and hybrid working and embrace the flexible work solution that works for you.
Flexible work solutions for all
For those people who work in desk-based jobs, which includes most charity roles, flexible working is relatively straightforward. Home and hybrid working is an easy fix and has provided many with a seamless transition from the days of lockdown.
However, there are an endless number of other ways to introduce elements of flexibility, so much so that this National Work Life Week (10-14 October) Working Families is championing finding the flex in every role. Because, no matter what your job, everyone should be able to unlock the benefits of flexibility.
Fixed or fluid hours?
The type of flexibility you need will depend entirely on your personal circumstances. Maybe you’d prefer the dependability of set hours so you can plan around caring responsibilities, or perhaps a flexible arrangement which allows more autonomy is better suited to your life. Let’s look at some of the more common arrangements that can meet these differing needs:
Condensed or compressed hours
The reallocation of working hours over a week or a fortnight so that an individual may work longer on some days in exchange for regular time off.
A form of part-time working where the role remains full-time and is shared between two employees who work part-time hours. The job-sharers decide the division of work but it can be divided according to areas of expertise or responsibilities.
Employees choose their working times within set limits. This pattern is normally attributed to a team rather than an individual. Organisations often put core hours in place to ensure the team work together regularly, but there is freedom to choose working hours either side of these times.
The organisation will calculate an individual’s hours across the year, but their hours will change depending on operational demands during different periods. Organisations will often calculate pay and benefits as if working hours were consistent, known as ‘income smoothing’.
Flexible work solutions in a fixed location
YouGov research carried out by Working Families and SF Recruitment found that 46% of UK working parents can’t work remotely because their job is tied to a specific location. It’s true that some charity roles may involve working directly with beneficiaries based in a fixed place. So for these people, remote or hybrid working may be out of the question. But there are still plenty of opportunities for introducing flexibility:
Employees within a team are given responsibility to decide as a team who will work each shift, in order to cover the working week between them.
Team members may agree to swop their allocated working shifts. This can be done on an informal ad hoc basis, to allow team members flexibility when they need it.
A team is split into two and each member is allocated a buddy. The two teams will work slightly different shift patterns, alternating weekly, to allow time off every other week, with the buddy providing ad hoc cover as needed.
A flexible approach to work
By its very nature, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to flexibility. Finding the flexible work solution that fits requires a dialogue between yourself and your manager.
Putting forward some suggestions of your vision of flexibility, along with how you expect it to impact on your work, can help your employer to think outside the box and understand what to expect from any new arrangement. To help you set out your proposal, and make your flexible working request a success, you can find a flex request template via Working Families’ free legal advice service.
Whatever option you settle on, don’t be afraid to experiment. All flexible work solutions take adjustment, and sometimes you won’t get things right from the off. It’s okay to admit if something isn’t working and make changes, because it’s only when flexibility is working for you, that you and your employer will both see the benefits.
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Jane van Zyl
Jane van Zyl is Chief Executive of Working Families, the UK’s work-life balance charity. She has 14 years’ experience working in the third sector and has held senior leadership positions at a number of UK charities, including Samaritans and Sands. She believes in the value of a fulfilling, balanced working life and its transformative power to create social connections, build self-esteem, and impact the wider community.
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