Flexible working is fast becoming an expected
benefit for many employees, rather than the ‘nice to have’ it once was. Rising
costs of childcare are leading to parents and even grandparents needing to
adapt their working hours around their life. At the same time, many of those
just entering the workforce are finding the idea of a traditional 9-5 job
outdated and are seeking a more fulfilling work-life balance.

It’s estimated that failure to provide
flexible working options costs the UK economy £62.5bn. So rather than just
being a benefit regarding employee happiness, it can also translate into missed
potential for businesses.

Most companies are looking at how they can
make flexible working suit both their employees and their business needs. Two
key elements determining the success or failure of a flexible working programme
are trust and accuracy.

two-way street of trust

In any employment situation, there is an
element of trust between the two parties involved. The employer trusts that the
employee will work the hours they have been asked to do, whilst the worker
trusts that they will be fairly recompensed for this. This works well when
employees are visible, in an office or on a shop floor. In some organisations, this
may involve clocking-in, so any discrepancies in this can be quickly taken into
account when it comes to pay.

For employees working flexibly from home or
elsewhere, however, the faith employers and their workforce place in each other
can come more starkly into focus. If an employee leaves the office at 3pm to
pick up their children, saying they’ll continue working after the children have
gone to bed, can the employer be sure they’ll do so? And if an employee takes
longer than expected inputting data, how will they know that they’ll be paid
for the extra time?

Even for those employees whose job requires
them to be present, flexible working can stretch the trust between them and
their managers. An employee who needs every Tuesday off to plug their childcare
gap will quickly become frustrated when they’re repeatedly asked to come in at
the last-minute due to rota mistakes.

It’s in these situations when the
all-important trust between employer and employee gets tested, leading to low
workforce morale, decreased up-take of overtime and, in a worst-case scenario,
termination of employment.

data as a builder of trust

This is where trustworthy, accurate and
easily visible data can help maintain strong and healthy professional
relationships. A remote worker who can clock-in and out on their smartphone is
much more likely to volunteer to put in extra hours at home, as they know
they’ll see their overtime rewarded in their pay packet.

For managers too, easy access to data makes
their lives a lot easier when it comes to organising flexible workers. A
factory manager, who can quickly see which workers are available when, can put
together a schedule which works for everyone much more efficiently.  This ensures not only that they have enough
staff on the shop floor, but also that employee flexible working needs are
constantly and consistently respected. Employees who feel that their needs are
understood and considered by their employer are more likely to be happy,
productive and loyal.

Flexible working is here to stay, so
businesses need to make sure that their HR systems are best adapted to
accommodate their workforce’s changing expectations – or risk losing their
employees to other businesses who already have.