Flexible working a win win for engagement
The CIPD has welcomed the extension of the right to request flexible working hours to all staff, which comes into force today, a move which recognises that the complexities of modern working lives can deliver loyalty, engagement and productivity dividends to firms.
The professional body for HR and people development has been campaigning for these changes for many years, with research consistently revealing many business benefits associated with flexible working, as explored in the CIPD’s report ‘Flexible Working Provision and Uptake.’
Susannah: Clements, CIPD Deputy Chief Executive, comments “Extending the ‘right to request’ to all workers is a measure that recognises the complexities of modern working lives. Employers need flexible workforces to meet the increasingly 24/7 needs of their global customer bases. And more and more employees find they need to able to build some flexibility into their working patterns at different times during their working lives – be that to accommodate childcare, caring for sick or elderly relatives, study or other life events.
“Line managers need to be helped to understand how flexible working options can be incorporated in a way that meets business needs, and to get the best out of more complex, less “nine-to-five” teams – and HR professionals are well equipped to provide this support.
"Although many organisations already use flexible working, CIPD research reveals that take-up of some forms of flexible working are still very low – potentially limiting the talent pool of workers that firms are able to recruit from. If management skills can be raised sufficiently to maximise the upsides of a more flexible workforce, instead of allowing managers to see the new regulations as a threat, this change can help drive increases in productivity and competitiveness for firms and the wider economy.”
Under the new legislation, employees who have been in service for 26 weeks or longer, whether parents or not, will have the right to request to work flexibly. The term describes a type of working arrangement which gives some degree of flexibility on how long, where, and when employees work. Flexible working practices include part-time working, term-time working, job-sharing, flexitime, compressed hours, annual hours, working from home on a regular basis, mobile working/teleworking, career breaks, or zero hours contracts.
Many organisations have already implemented flexible working and have allowed all employees to request flexible working long before this change in the law. However, under the new right to request extension, businesses will be supported by government guidance and will now have to provide a “business reason” for saying no to a flexible working request, e.g. if they can’t cover a particular shift. CIPD research shows that reasons for refusal include customer demand (39%), inability to reorganise work (30%) and impact on performance (16%). However, around 73% of employers report that when they do offer flexible working, it has a positive impact on staff motivation and engagement, and over three quarters feel it also helps them retain staff.
"This will have major repercussions on how organisations set up and operate their call centres" said Steve Mosser, CEO of the Sensée HomeAgent Network. "Call centre workers can now request flexible and home-working safe in the knowledge that developments in 'virtual' business models and technologies have made it a realistic and practical option for thousands of UK businesses. Indeed, in recent times, call centre homeworking has proven itself a win-win-win for businesses, employees and customers – not only delivering higher productivity at lower cost when compared to traditional call centre operations but also leading to higher staff engagement and improved customer experiences."
With more organisations engaged in call centre homeworking than ever before, research business Ovum predicts in its 2014 report 'The future of home-based agent outsourcing' that the number of home-based agents will increase from just under 84,000 to nearly 160,000 by the end of 2017.