What is flexible working?

Flexible working is much more than part time work. Working Mums outlines some of the growing range of options.

Freelancer with flexible working


When people think about flexible working, they mainly imagine part-time work, but the term encompasses a huge range of different ways of working and new options are being added all the time.

Here are some of the options on offer:

Flexitime: employees work an agreed number of hours over a set period. Usually some core hours are agreed, with flexible start and finish times and the option of time off in lieu if more hours are worked.

Compressed hours: working more hours in a shorter period, for example, working four long days instead of five shorter ones.

Annualised or seasonal hours: employees work longer hours in busy periods and fewer hours at other times of the year/season.

Homeworking or teleworking: employees work from home because their job is suited to homeworking, work from home a day or more a week or work from home on an occasional basis.

Job shares: two employees share the same job, with the work usually divided 50:50 so each employee works 2.5 days a week, although some people choose to work on alternate weeks instead. Not all job shares are split evenly.

Term-time only work: employees work during school term-times only, and have the holidays off.

Temporary reduced hours/phased return or retirement: reduced hours agreed on a temporary basis, for instance by mothers returning after maternity leave or by people heading towards retirement. The time period for reduced hours is usually agreed beforehand.

Part-time work: working reduced hours from the normal 9-5 day.

Some employees use a variety of flexible options, for instance, working part time with one day working from home.

Clare Dean works part time as a Human Resources Manager for a Sales and Marketing consultancy based in Ascot. Her hours are 9.30am to 3pm 4 days per week which allows her to see her two small children.

She switched from a full time job around half a year ago after seeing her current job advertised on WorkingMums website. “I realised that as much as we needed for me to work full time financially, I actually wasn’t able to devote to anyone ie my children, my husband, my job and myself – enough time and energy resulting in all areas of our lives being affected and me having to leave my job after 7 years (in post) to be able to readdress the balance and satisfy us all,” she says.

Jenny Keen also got her job as a home-based estate agent through WorkingMums. She works 16 hours a week around her three year old, who attends preschool.

She had taken three years out of the workplace after giving birth.

Kam Kaur is a local government worker and single parent of two primary school-aged children. She works compressed hours.

This means she works longer hours for four days a week, allowing her to have Fridays off to pick up her children from school. She says the flexibility this gives her is invaluable.

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