By Gemma Haigh – July 6th, 2022
Originally planned for the 2019 Queen’s Speech, the latest Employment Bill could land later this year and is expected to include a new right for employees to request flexible working from day one of their employment.
By 2nd August 2022, EU Member States will implement the EU Work/Life Balance Directive, which includes new rights for carers and working parents (European Commission, 2022). The new directive will give workers returning from parental leave, carers and all working parents of children (up to 8 years old) the right to request flexible working arrangements.
Post-Brexit, the UK does not need to implement this ruling but has promised to match the new rights for carers and is expected to follow suit on some elements of flexible working.
Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs. As examples, this could include working from home or offering flexible start and finish times (gov.uk, 2022). Covid has meant that a number of organisations have moved towards flexible working and home working has become ‘the norm’ in a number of industries.
Many businesses are under increased pressure from employees to accommodate this flexibility post-pandemic and in a recent survey by Lewis Silkin (2021) on post-Covid employment policies, 63% of respondents thought flexibility is of more importance than work location when incentivising staff, with 33% considering it as important as salary.
Despite initial reservations from some employers, this isn’t bad news for businesses. If implemented correctly, flexible working practices can actually increase productivity within a workforce and lead to a much healthier and happier team.
How? Presenteeism has become increasingly prevalent in workplaces throughout the pandemic and recent years, as the lines between work life and home life often blur. Presenteeism can look like employees forcing themselves into the office when they are unwell, or doing extra work from home, to prove their productivity and worth.
Data has shown that per employee, up to 35 days are lost per year because of presenteeism, compared with just three days per employees due to absenteeism (Financial Times, 2019).
Put simply, many people only take a break to refuel when their tank is empty instead of when it’s half full. This can lead to physical and mental exhaustion and longer periods of absence when employees do take sick leave. By creating a healthier working environment, staff take the breaks they need and improve their own health, lessening the risk of presenteeism in a business.
Introducing a policy of flexible working can reduce the time spent dealing with individual formal requests and gives your staff the freedom and autonomy to work in their most effective way. By creating this culture, you are showing your team that you trust them to complete their allocated tasks but also care about their wellbeing whilst they complete them.
Here are some ways this could look in practice for your employees:
Many businesses are also clearly outlining their flexible working policies in their recruitment processes, helping to attract potential new employees who have this as a high priority on their list when looking for a new role. What’s more, without a flexible working policy, you could lose valued members of staff because of a rigid, outdated approach. Can your business afford to lose employees to your competitors?
To summarise, a team that feels valued and happy will work harder than a team who feel burnt out and trapped by a 9-5pm routine that means they dread the next time their child is unwell or the nursery closes early for training. If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that we never know what is around the corner but one thing is for certain, caring for your team’s mental health is always a good business decision.
If you want to support your team’s wellbeing and create a healthy and happy environment in your organisation, get in touch today.
About Gemma Haigh
Gemma is one of the Project Leads for the Business Health Matters programme, overseeing the Workplace Health Check service, funded by the UK Research and Innovation’s Healthy Ageing Challenge fund. Gemma is a parent herself and enjoys the work life balance in her role at Active Lancashire.