Guest article by John Ellmore, Director of KnowYourMoney.co.uk
The standard 9 to 5, office-based working environment simply doesn’t cut it anymore for many UK workers. This is particularly true for those with outside commitments that demand their time; whether this is looking after young children or caring for partners or elderly relatives.
Positively, and in a drive to promote a better work-life balance, the notion of flexible working has quickly gained a foothold in businesses large and small. Today, companies are willing to loosen the reigns of employees and grant them the freedom to dictate their own schedules and working habits. This enables carers to fit work around their loved ones, rather than being forced to choose between their responsibilities or their income.
Below I outline some ways that those who juggle the two can take advantage of this growing movement.
What do we mean by flexible working?
Let’s explore the trend in more detail. Flexible working is an umbrella term which encapsulates a number of different workplace arrangements, from altering working hours to fit around non work-related commitments, to conducting business remotely, thereby reducing the time-consuming burden of daily commuting.
In a bid to better understand workers’ sentiments towards workplace arrangements, Know Your Money recently conducted a survey of more than 2,000 UK adults in full-time or part-time work to uncover the extent to which they value greater flexibility through work.
The survey showed that three quarters (75%) of UK employees are in favour of a four-day working week, even if that meant still working the same number of hours as a five-day week. Even more telling was the fact that almost half (49%) of the respondents said they would be in favour of a four-day working week even if it meant they had to take a pay reduction of 20%.
There’s clearly strong demand for flexible working – so how can carers use it to their advantage?
How can carers make flexible working work for them?
Whilst working carers have a legal right to request a flexible working pattern if they have been with their employer for over 26 weeks, it’s best to inform them of your situation sooner rather than later. Be open and transparent. This will enable your employer to create working arrangements which suit you and the company. From here, you will be able to clarify when, where, and how daily tasks will be carried out.
The proliferation of smartphones, tablets and laptops is a godsend for those who would otherwise not have the same freedoms to work from home, or outside of traditional business hours. Such flexibility empowers workers to balance their professional commitments around their caring responsibilities.
Meanwhile, new digital software and platforms have arisen to improve workflows and efficiency, ensuring that workers are able to stay connected to their workplaces without having to be physically present within the remit of its four walls. Social channels like Slack facilitate the exchange of notes and files, as well as giving professionals the ability to share updates on ongoing projects and new developments. Whereas platforms such as Skype and Zoom ensure that important meetings can take place regardless of the team’s location.
The most important point to note is that flexible working doesn’t mean a drop in productivity: technology today offers countless solutions to ensure that you can produce high-quality work and meet your deadlines. The task for individuals is to educate themselves and upskill to stay up-to-date with emerging technological trends that will support their professional lives.
Flexible working is certainly here to stay and brings welcome change to the unpredictable world of working carers. However, to ensure it positively impacts as many people as possible, companies must commit to keeping up with digital trends. Only then will companies and carers be able to enjoy all the benefits of flexible working.