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Are SMEs finding it difficult to work flexibly?

Flexible workingWhether flexible working is something you’re for or against, at some point you will probably have to accept it. There’s parental leave, the re-introduction of employees back to the workplace after sickness, and just managing individual employee circumstances when they pop up. And now, after the government granted all workers the right to ask for flexible working, anyone can submit their own request.

Opportunities for flexible working are becoming the norm. But are some SMEs locked out of the benefits?

Flexible working can have many forms from simply changing the time that the person works, allowing them to miss rush hour traffic and stress, to working part time from home. It is really about finding solutions that meet the needs of the business as well as the individual.

76% of UK employers now employ flexibly in one form or another. Many HR Professionals believe this is due to a desire by men and women to have more work life balance and with advances in technology and a growing 24 hour world this can be achieved with a bit of creative thinking.

The pace of change is picking up, and down the line top talent will expect the option to work flexibly. Does this potentially leave smaller firms at a disadvantage?

Arguably, no! SMEs are traditionally fantastic at employing flexibly. For some, it’s the only option. If you’re a restaurant, café or bar for example, employing flexibly is essential. Micro businesses too, usually take on part-time staff at first to help grow the business, without having to blow the budget on wages at the end of the month. SMEs operating in the leisure, tourism and retail industries are no strangers to more flexible employment practices over the seasonal periods, to deal with demand.

Small firms that need customer facing staff at set hours will find it harder to accommodate requests and there is always concern that working from home will result in low productivity, as they are not in the right place.

But what constitutes ‘the right place’? New tech allows us to run an office from a single device that fits into your pocket. Technological limitations no longer mean that staff must be in an office to work. Firms embracing remote working are likely to push ahead of the flexible working trend (don’t forget your remote worker policies!).

The biggest barrier to becoming a more flexible workplace will be culture. Never underestimate it! No matter what size your business is, changing from a 9-5 workforce to a more flexibly managed one needs to be embraced by all before you can start reaping the rewards.

Want to introduce or extend flexible working and stay ahead of the trend? Get in touch with The HR Dept.