Report highlights how to normalise flexible working

A new report calls on employers to simplify the flexible working process and provide guidance and support to line managers.

Workers in office

Flexible working could help to reduce the rising employee absence trend

The formal flexible working process needs to be simplified and managers need support on how to scale workloads effectively, according to a new report from the Government Equalities Office.

The report, Flexible working: qualitative analysis, is produced by the Behavioural Insights Team known as the ‘nudge unit’.

It finds that flexible working uptake could be improved if the process was simplified and signposted better to make it easier and more attractive. It calls for HR to automatically monitor requests to ensure none are privately rejected by line managers.

The report also says managers need “meaningful guidance” on flexible working or could be encouraged to go for trial periods to help them to consider and envisage how to implement flexible working patterns in their team. The report says experience of flexible working can change minds. The guidance could include how to scale workloads and objectives appropriately, for instance, if working hours are reduced.

It suggests managers should be encouraged to have open conversations about worklife balance and preferred working styles with employees, particularly at transitional momentsĀ such as before and after parental leave.

Finally, it recommends making flexible working the organisational norm by advertising all job roles as flexible, automatically carrying forward flexible working arrangements into promotional roles and accepting flexible working requests by default. It is still seen as something for mothers by many, but attitudes are changing, with younger workers wanted more flexibility, says the report. That means visible role models, particularly of men, are important as is discussing flexible working as part of the induction process and generally encouraging different working patterns.

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