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Flexible working: Summer holiday planning

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Summer holidayThe increasing adoption of flexible working within organisations can add to the annual conundrum of smoothing out staffing peaks and troughs created by those on holiday. Sally Livermore explains how to deal with all those requests.


The demand for flexible working arrangements inevitably rises during traditional holiday periods, as members of staff try to cope with children off school, so how does an organisation go about meeting such requests?

With the summer holidays just around the corner, now is the time to start planning how your organisation will deal with special requests for flexible working during the summer months.

Establishing a policy

Some organisations adopt a rigid policy about when their people can have time off or, increasingly rare these days, may even have an annual shutdown. Others, within an annual holiday policy framework, may leave it up to line managers to decide when people in their departments can have time off. Whatever the policy on annual holidays, organisations should also have one for dealing with requests for flexible working arrangements during school holidays.

“With the war for talent escalating, flexible working arrangements could be an effective weapon in the HR armoury for recruiting and retaining the right people.”

First, a business case needs to be made for meeting flexible working requests during school holidays. With the war for talent escalating, flexible working arrangements could be an effective weapon in the HR armoury for recruiting and retaining the right people.

In a tight job market, any competitive advantage can play a significant part and the opportunity to work from home could be a deciding factor for certain employees. A few years ago, a Ceridian survey on home working indicated that 57% of employers felt that employees now expected this kind of flexibility.

Indeed, 74% of companies admitted that, where practical, the opportunity of home-based working is a necessary component to attract and retain the right people, with 75% advising that it gives them an advantage in the job market. Clearly, though, organisations need to exercise proper control over home working to drive real business benefit.

Once senior management agree to adopt flexible working arrangements, a detailed policy needs to be agreed and produced for the organisation.

However, this does not appear to be happening in all cases. The same survey revealed that organisations needed to exercise greater control of their home workers to extract maximum value from this growing sector of the employment market.

Surprisingly, 54% of the companies surveyed were operating with no formal policy in place to protect them or their employees. While this may be due to the ad hoc development of home-based working, it showed a clear lack of control.

Measuring productivity

Given that the starting point for introducing flexible working arrangements is establishing a business case, it is equally surprising that four out of 10 companies admitted it was not possible to measure the savings to their business of allowing home working, with 31% relying on the judgement of the relevant manager. Only 8% claimed they could measure savings accurately.

“At a time when cost savings have never been under greater scrutiny, organisations need to ensure they measure the productivity and savings benefits they expect to gain from their flexible workers.”

Furthermore, only 52% sought to monitor the productivity of staff time spent at home, with 12% claiming it is not possible to measure. Of those companies formally monitoring productivity, 60% of respondents reported that company expectations with regard to productivity were largely or fully met.

At a time when cost savings have never been under greater scrutiny, organisations need to not only exercise greater control over flexible workers by introducing formal policies, but also need to ensure they measure the productivity and savings benefits they expect to gain from their flexible workers.

Managing flexible workers

Two-thirds of companies consider flexible workers more difficult to manage. This reinforces the need for the introduction of formal policies and measurement tools by HR departments to ensure that they derive the greatest benefit from their home workers, in terms of productivity and cost savings.

Health and safety

Besides the need to exercise proper financial control, organisations also need to ensure that they do not fall foul of health and safety legislation. With duty of care at the top of the agenda in boardrooms up and down the country, health and safety considerations should be central to any flexible working policy to ensure that the organisation does not become liable to claims.

Application

The adoption of flexible working arrangements and the possible allowance for greater rollout during school holiday times needs to be applied fairly and consistently. It needs to engage all staff, both those permitted to work flexible times and those who are not for reasons of organisational performance and efficiency.

The policy needs to be clearly communicated and applied to staff by line managers so that grievances are avoided. Above all, the extended policy, allowing for greater flexible working during school holidays, needs to benefit the employer as well as the employee.


Sally Livermore is a senior HR Business Partner at Ceridian.

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