Destroying the 7 myths of flexible working

iStock_000005488693MediumI think most of us have been aware for some time that SMEs have been playing an integral role in getting the UK’s economy back up and running. So it may come as no surprise to read that, between them, small businesses are responsible for the vast majority of new job roles created over the past three years – an impressive 84% according to a recent study by the Institute of Public Policy & Research.

In this sense, small really is beautiful. Beautiful because small businesses can be so much more responsive than large organisations to business and market needs. In this day and age – and economic climate – the ability to adapt and think outside the box is what’s needed. One of the biggest changes over the last few years is the desire to find alternatives to the traditional 9-to-5 work model, and it’s within the SME sector that flexible working seems to have been fully embraced.

I talk to employers on a daily basis. For some, flexible working is the perfect and obvious solution. For others it’s a challenge to believe that it really can work for them, especially when it involves roles that bring with them significant responsibility. Many conversations tend to follow a similar theme and highlights the fact that there are a number of myths that really do need to be dispelled:

There are no business benefits

Yet I see, day after day, businesses that are thriving thanks to flexible working. Whether it’s because they’ve successfully recruited a talented individual who has the skills and knowledge to do in just three days what others might do in five, or because they’ve managed to retain a valuable member of staff through a mutually agreeable working arrangement. Being more open to different scenarios brings new opportunities and ideas to the table.

It’s all about the employee

So flexible working is okay lower down the ladder because there’s less responsibility involved, but it could never work at more senior levels? Just because someone isn’t working five days a week doesn’t mean there is no sense of company loyalty. If anything, you may find it’s the absolute opposite, that in the time for which they are employed individuals will invest far greater commitment in what they are doing. Yes, the working hours may have been designed to fit in with childcare, but these are people who want to work and want to add value in the available time.

It’s just too difficult to manage

Yet there is no reason why employing someone to work part-time or remotely should be any more challenging than standard recruitment. The trick is to know that person’s schedule, when and where they will be available to have any necessary meetings. It’s all down to good time management by all parties and, if anything, this can bring positive change – becoming more focused in how time is spent and making sure that there is a point to every interaction you have, that clear outcomes are achieved each time.

They’ll be less productive

It’s easy to imagine someone who works remotely – the lie-ins, a long lunch watching daytime TV, the lengthy phone chats to friends. However, various studies show that home-based employees are actually more productive and less distracted than office-based staff because their time is highly focused. Just because you can see someone sat at their desk, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are working hard – think for a moment just how many personal emails are flying through the ether at any one time, or how much time is spent on the Internet shopping for bargains or booking theatre tickets. It’s all on your time.

You just can’t get the staff

After all, the standard working week is so ingrained within so many of us and where would you find talented individuals who only want to work two days a week anyway? Well, that’s why recruitment consultancies such as Talent Gateway exist, because there has been a gap in the recruitment market – one that we now fill with excellent candidates who have much to offer companies, just in a different way.

Offer flexible hours to one person, everyone will want the same

There does seem to be a concern that the desire to work flexibly will somehow spread like a rash throughout a company. Flexible working is a personal choice based on circumstance. Not everyone will feel the need or desire a flexible work pattern or remotely. It’s a set up that demands a high level of organisation and self motivation, qualities that not everyone possesses. Many are simply more comfortable being managed and not having to think too much about what’s next.

Recruitment offers an interesting view on business and I strongly believe that the tide is turning. More and more businesses are becoming aware of the advantages that flexible working can bring – increasingly at a senior level. Yes, there may be reservations, but these are often easily dealt with simply through talking these through when meeting talented candidates, that can prove just how much value they will bring to a company.

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