Flexible working benefits must be realised

The recession is forcing employers to recognise the very real business benefits of flexible working, such as controlling costs while retaining staff (‘Let flexibility be your friend and reap the benefits in cost savings’, Opinion, Personnel Today, 21 April). But there are still obstacles that need to be overcome for it to work effectively.

Flexible workers are less likely to receive top awards in performance-related pay or bonuses, which can have an impact on equal pay measures. Second, there is still the assumption that flexible working policies are for women, as far fewer men are taking it up or being granted it when they make requests.

Managers are struggling with flexible working, and rely on managing performance through close working rather than setting properly measured objectives.

The key to making this work for employee and employer is getting performance management right, and understanding the key workflows in your business. Once the recession starts to lift, we can hope that the benefits realised through rather forced flexible working will be recognised and retained. It’s a bit like women going to work during the Second World War – what happens when we all get back to ‘normal’?

Mary Mercer, principal consultant, Institute for Employment Studies

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