Calling for flexible working

Working nine to five? If you are then you are in the minority. A YouGov survey has revealed that just 6% of UK workers clock on and off in line with ‘traditional’ working hours. More importantly, nearly half of us have adopted flexible working patterns, job share, or work compressed hours.

The survey of nearly 4,000 adults looked not only at current working patterns but also asked people to indicate their preferred method of working. Here, 58% of respondents indicated a preference for starting before nine and finishing before five, whilst 48% would be happy to work longer days in return for a shorter working week. Those who already have the flexible working option said that not only did it allow them to juggle family and other commitments; it also increased motivation and encouraged people to stay in the same job for longer.

Employees in the UK have the right to request flexible working after they have been with an employer for twenty-six weeks. Employers have to respond to the request within three months and any refusal has to be backed up by a sound business case.

Now admittedly we can’t all work as flexibly as we would like. Virtually every organisation will have core times when adequate staffing is required in order to meet customer needs. It wouldn’t be much use if our local store closed early as all staff had decided to take the afternoon off and the six o’clock news would be a little bare if reporters had decided to work eight ‘till four that day. Nevertheless, businesses are starting to realise that they don’t have to expect all employees to work nine to five; when offering a flexible roster could meet the needs of the business, its customers and its employees.

In order to offer effective flexible working businesses may, however, need to review their systems and processes, particularly those used for customer contact. There is nothing more frustrating from a customer point of view than having calls go unanswered. Equally, calls ringing on an unmanned phone can prove to be both distracting and a cause of stress to employees. The solution is to install a flexible and robust telephone system which direct calls seamlessly around a set pathway. Using a group divert system helps to ensure that calls are prioritised and answered as swiftly as possible with phones being added to and removed from the call pathway in line with employee attendance. And with easy programming and re-programming the pathway can flex in line with employee flexibility.

Of course, there will be a time when despite all efforts there are more calls than people available to answer them. On an occasional basis switching to answerphone may provide the solution but here again businesses which look to overhaul their systems could come up with long-term solutions. For example, call analysis could reveal that the same topics are cropping up time and time again. Installing an information line or adding FAQs to the website could help to cut down on routine calls. Here again information line messages can easily be updated as required, enabling organisations to rapidly adapt their message in line with business conditions.

Are you working 9 to 5? With flexible working systems at your fingertips perhaps it’s time to see if alternative working patterns could lead to enhanced business options.

Written by Alison