How to implement a flexible working plan

After Gordon Brown recently announced his work-life balance agenda, flexible working will soon be widely available to as many as 4.5 million extra parents with teenagers.

Responding to The Chancellor’s announcement, Ken Sheridan, Founder of Remote Employment, a website dedicated to connecting Employers with Job Seekers who want to work flexibly, remotely or work from home, said:

“This move from the government to support flexible working will be welcomed by millions of parents across the country! It would also be nice to see this type of initiative extended to other working groups given that companies are realising the far reaching advantages of flexible working.”

Currently only parents of children under six years old have the right to request flexible working as well as carers of the disabled.

The new agenda extends the right to all those with children up to the age of 16. Mr Brown said: “The right to request flexible working has been working for lots of people over the last few years. It is working for parents of young children and now it can apply to children under 16 where families need time off to help bring them up.”

Sheridan believes that the structure of the labour market is going to be reshaped dramatically over the four years, with flexible and remote working expected to almost double.

There are already around 3.5 million people already working from home in the UK and this was expected to double by 2012.

Now an extra 4.5 million workers will now be able to request better working hours as part of a drive by Gordon Brown to improve the country’s work-life balance.

A flexible and remote working plan enables companies to retain valued staff by offering them choices to suit their lifestyle demands.

It also gives employers the added advantage of recruiting talented individuals from anywhere in the country instead of just around their local office.

The change would come into effect next April and will affect all businesses from multinational organisations to small shops. It may be a cultural shift for many organisations, so Sheridan suggests setting out a flexible working plan.

Implementing a flexible working plan:

1. Establish the business case and the objectives of introducing such a scheme. Consider how increased flexibility could enhance working practises across the company.

2. Ascertain goals and the action expected to reach those targets. Determine the issues that flexible working needs to address.

3. Communicate the concept to staff at an early stage to realise the positive impact on the business. Survey all employees to find what they would appreciate and value. Ensure this works both for the individual and the business. Personal flexibility will build a strong and loyal workforce.

4. Consult with HR specialists to prepare relevant documents such as a ‘Home Office Health and Safety Checklist’ to ensure you become a responsible employer of choice.

5. Talk to managers to analyse what jobs can be flexible within the organisation. Clear rules from the outset will avoid future confusion. Employees with flexible working not only need to be managed, but evaluated and rewarded with career development.
6. If necessary, prepare an equipment budget for remote and home workers. Decide on the technology that will be required and how to secure data. Consult with IT providers to streamline solutions.

7. Set up an activity programme for remote workers to keep staff involved with team meetings, virtual conferences and home assessments. Keeping remote or home workers ‘visible’ with support and resources will reduce absenteeism and improve productivity.

8. Review the plan to monitor the effectiveness and productivity of flexible working. Once a flexible plan is in action it cannot be put to one side, it will constantly evolve and grow with the company.

Sheridan and business partner Paula Wynne, both parents of teenagers, started Remote Employment to fill the gap in the job market by offering a connection to employers and job seekers who want to work flexibly, remotely or work from home.

They believe that the government’s new flexible working agenda, alongside home based business opportunities, which is being driven by the huge advances in technology, is the way forward for the majority of parents.

It provides them with more control over how they do their work, increases job satisfaction and work production, and an all round improvement in work-life balance, leading to a better quality of life.

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