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Is flexible working the key to making your business more inclusive?

Could you turn workplace flexibility into a strategic advantage that transforms your business into a more inclusive and rewarding environment? By offering flexible working arrangements, you empower your employees to work in ways that suit their needs while also meeting the demands of your clients and organisation. This adaptability not only improves inclusion, diversity, and efficiency but also enhances engagement and performance across the board.

New Legislation Alert!
April 2024 marked a significant change in the UK’s flexible working landscape. Individuals are now entitled to request flexibility from their very first day in a new job, eliminating the previous requirement of waiting for 26 continuous weeks in post. Moreover, the responsibility for setting flexible working conditions has shifted from employee to employer, highlighting the importance of prioritising flexibility in the modern workplace.

In today’s workforce, where individuals are working longer, flexible working can make all the difference. For millions of people, including parents, carers, individuals with long-term health conditions and disabilities, and older workers, flexible working is not just an option—it’s a necessity. It’s a lifeline that enables them to balance work and personal commitments effectively.

Research has shown that flexible working has tangible benefits for both employees and employers. Studies from Harvard and Penn State universities have demonstrated that flexible working reduces the risk of heart attacks or strokes, helps prevent burnout, and protects mental health. By giving employees choice and control over their working patterns, flexible working fosters a culture of wellbeing and inclusion within the organisation.

Furthermore, flexible working can help businesses build more diverse and inclusive workforces. For example, when insurer Zurich noticed a lack of applications from women for senior roles, it introduced a flexible working initiative. This resulted in a 66% increase in applications, with a quarter of the new hires opting for part-time work. Similarly, research from the University of Lancaster has shown that remote working can significantly benefit employees with disabilities or long-term health conditions, with 70% stating that remote work positively impacts their health.

A survey commissioned by Careers After Babies found that while 98% of women want to return to work after maternity leave, only 13% find full-time work viable. This statistic underscores the importance of flexible working arrangements in supporting working mothers and promoting workforce diversity.

Despite the clear benefits, flexible working isn’t limited to working from home. There are numerous flexible working arrangements that can accommodate diverse needs and preferences:

– Working across different sites and offices
– Compressed hours
– Team-based shift rotas
– Part-time hours
– Job sharing
– Late starts and early finishes
– Fewer or shorter shifts

Flexible working arrangements can be particularly challenging to implement for small business owners. It’s not easy to accommodate and balance everyone’s requests, especially with limited resources and staffing. However, the commitment and loyalty gained from employees by offering flexibility can far outweigh the initial challenges. By demonstrating a willingness to accommodate diverse needs and preferences, small businesses can foster a culture of trust and loyalty among their team members.

In conclusion, offering flexible working arrangements isn’t just about accommodating individual preferences—it’s about creating a culture of inclusivity and diversity that drives business success. By embracing flexibility, you can attract a more diverse workforce and unlock the full potential of your organisation.