Is Flexible Working the Right Choice for Your Firm? (Buzzacott)

June 16, 2021 - Buzzacott

This is a Thought Leadership article by PrimeGlobal member firm Buzzacott which explores whether flexible working works for you and your firm. 

With restrictions easing and firms now planning a workplace return, what should you consider when deciding if implementing flexible working practices is the right choice for your business?

The disruption caused by COVID-19 demonstrated the critical importance for businesses to invest in their operational resilience. As firms now plan a workplace return, the dramatic shift in working practices, as a result of the pandemic has shown that it’s possible to move away from traditional thinking and adapt to make flexible working the ‘new normal’. So how can you ensure that flexible working works for you and your firm?

What is flexible working?

Flexible working is not a new phenomenon, and the right to request a flexible working arrangement became law in April 2014. Currently, employees can make such a request after 26 weeks. Flexible working can take many forms, and can include remote working (including home working), flexi-time, condensed hours, job-sharing and part-time working.

What are the benefits and challenges?

Notable benefits of flexible working include increased employee motivation and productivity, reduced costs in office space, and offering a competitive advantage in the market when recruiting. There’re also lots of employee benefits such as savings (in both time and money) from reduced commuting, working patterns for work/life balances, and more autonomous working. 

While there are numerous advantages, there are also challenges and operational disruptions that pose risks. A key component of financial services is the important communication between colleagues, and there’s a heavy reliance on the effective communication of key information that could have huge financial significance. With this in mind, you have to consider the technological barriers in terms of accessing information remotely. Also, in many firms, activities such as in-person mentoring forms a significant part of development. So moving to a more flexible work-from-home model will need to consider these complexities. 

It’s also important to remember that although there may be potential for many roles to work more flexibly, it may not necessarily be suitable for all roles. For example, while some individuals may find it easy to work from home, others may need to be in the office to access systems. Some roles may be required to be more mobile to meet clients, for example. Flexibility therefore needs to be tailored, and before enacting any flexible working practices, firms need to consider their circumstances in detail, including operational issues, nuances in their business models, and risk management. 

How can you reap the benefits of a more flexible workforce?

  • Ask your employees – Employee input will optimize the effectiveness of flexible working, and improve engagement. A survey can be an excellent tool in establishing the general feelings of your employees and which ways of working are most suitable for your firm.
  • Implement a flexible working policy and procedure - This will enable you to formalize the practice and adapt it to suit your specific business needs. For example, do you need employees to be physically present at least some of the time? Are there set working times during which employees are required to be ‘available’? Setting these policies will help clarify boundaries and expectations for employees and managers to prevent confusion or potential issues.
  • Consider cost-efficiency and effective working - While there are reductions in cost resulting from reduced requirement for office space, other less obvious costs may build up if precautionary measures aren’t taken. Effective training in working remotely can help in many aspects of day-to-day work, such as management from a distance, enhanced productivity and purposeful virtual meetings.
  • Enable the right technology - Give employees what they need to succeed when working remotely, such as tools that improve productivity. Continue to assess and reinforce your VPN and access controls to help ensure remote work is secure.

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