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Employee benefits · 

5 minutes

Cormac O'SullivanPiggy

Navigating Flexible Working: A Comprehensive Guide

In the changing landscape of work, flexibility has become more than just a buzzword; it's a necessity. Today, we'll delve into the world of flexible working, exploring its benefits and disadvantages, and the various types it encompasses. We'll also guide you on whether flexible working is right for your company, and how to request or offer it.

What is Flexible Working?

Flexible working refers to any work schedule that deviates from the traditional 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday routine. It encompasses a wide range of working arrangements, from part-time work and job sharing to flextime, remote working, and more. At its core, flexible working is about empowering employees to choose a working pattern that suits their lifestyle and needs, promoting a healthier work-life balance.

Benefits of Flexible Working

The benefits of flexible working are manifold. For employees, it can significantly improve work-life balance, reduce commuting time, and offer greater autonomy and control over their working hours. For employers, offering flexible working can lead to increased productivity, improved employee morale, and lower turnover rates.

Improved Work-Life Balance

Flexible working can drastically improve employees' work-life balance. By allowing employees to adjust their working patterns to better align with their personal lives, it can reduce stress and increase job satisfaction.

Increased Productivity

A study by Stanford University found that remote workers were 13% more productive than their in-office counterparts. Flexibility can eliminate commuting time and office distractions, leading to higher productivity.

Enhanced Employee Morale and Retention

Flexible working can also boost employee morale and job satisfaction, leading to lower staff turnover rates. A survey by Owl Labs found that companies that support remote work have 25% lower employee turnover.

Disadvantages of Flexible Working

While the benefits are significant, flexible working also has potential downsides. These can include difficulties in managing remote teams, potential feelings of isolation among remote workers, and challenges in maintaining a clear separation between work and personal life.

Managing Remote Teams

Managing a remote or flexible team can be challenging. It requires clear communication, effective use of technology, and trust in employees' ability to work independently.

Potential Isolation

Remote and flexible workers may feel isolated from their colleagues, which can impact their well-being and engagement. Regular check-ins, virtual team building, and opportunities for face-to-face interaction when possible can mitigate this.

Work-Life Balance Challenges

While flexible working can improve work-life balance, the boundary between work and personal life can also become blurred, especially for remote workers. It's crucial to establish clear start and finish times and encourage employees to take breaks.

Types of Flexible Working

Flexible working can take many forms, allowing for various adjustments to the traditional working pattern. Here are some common types:


Flextime allows employees to have flexibility over their start and finish times, while still working a set number of hours each day.


In a job-sharing arrangement, two employees share the duties and responsibilities of one full-time position.


Part-time working involves working fewer hours than a standard full-time employment contract.

Compressed Hours

Compressed hours involve working the same total hours over fewer days, for instance, working four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days.

Annual Hours

Under an annual hours contract, employees agree to work a certain number of hours over the year, but the hours are unevenly distributed across the year.

Remote Working

Remote working involves working outside of the traditional office environment. This could be from home, a coworking space, or anywhere else.

Hybrid Working

Hybrid working is a blend of in-office and remote work. Employees might spend part of the week in the office and the rest working remotely.

Zero-Hour Contract

In a zero-hour contract, the employer does not guarantee a minimum number of work hours. The employee is only called in to work as needed.

Career Breaks or Sabbatical

A career break or sabbatical involves taking an extended period of time off work, often to travel, study, or for other personal reasons. This can be a form of flexible working if agreed upon with the employer.

Is Flexible Working Right for My Company?

Determining whether flexible working is right for your company depends on various factors such as your business model, the nature of the work, your team's needs, and your capacity to manage flexible arrangements.

Not all roles or tasks are suited to flexible or remote work. Jobs that require hands-on interaction, like many roles in healthcare or manufacturing, may not be compatible with remote working. On the other hand, knowledge work that primarily involves working on a computer can often be done flexibly or remotely.

Consider surveying your employees to understand their needs and interest in flexible working. This can provide valuable insights to inform your flexible working policies.

Requesting Flexible Work as an Employee

If you're an employee interested in flexible working, it's essential to understand your rights and the process for making a request.

In the UK, for example, all employees have the legal right to request flexible working - not just parents and carers. This is known as 'making a statutory application'. The basic steps are:

  • Make your request in writing, stating the date of the request, the change to working conditions you are seeking, and when you would like the change to come into effect.

  • Your employer will have a meeting to discuss your request within 26 weeks.

  • Your employer must provide a decision within 3 months of the request (this can be longer if agreed).

Remember, employers can refuse an application if they have a good business reason for doing so.

Offering Flexible Work as an Employer

If you're an employer considering offering flexible working, it's important to approach it in a structured way. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Assess Feasibility: Evaluate the feasibility of flexible working within your business. Consider the nature of the work, technology requirements, and employee needs.

  • Develop a Policy: Develop a clear flexible working policy. This should include who is eligible, how requests are handled, and how disputes are resolved.

  • Communicate: Clearly communicate the policy to all employees. Be transparent about the process and criteria for evaluating requests.

  • Train Managers: Equip managers with the skills and knowledge to manage a flexible team. This could include training on remote management, communication tools, and performance evaluation.

Flexible working can be a powerful tool for attracting and retaining talent, increasing productivity, and promoting a better work-life balance. However, it also comes with challenges and is not suitable for every role or company. By carefully considering the needs of your business and your employees, you can create a flexible working policy that benefits everyone.

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