The increase in flexible working brings many benefits for an employer. However, the change in working patterns also poses its own challenges to maintaining a sense of company culture. How can you encourage all the positive aspects of a shared company ethos when employees no longer follow traditional working hours?
Flexible working is on the increase
Flexible working has grown hugely in recent times. Some believe that as many as 78% of UK employers offer flexible working of one kind or another. And of course, small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) have traditionally been adept at employing flexibly – in fact it’s essential to sectors such as hospitality, cleaning and social care.
Since 2014 most UK employees, who have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks, have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers (the rules are different in Northern Ireland). Employers are obliged to consider the request in a ‘reasonable manner’ (government guidelines). Therefore the potential number of flexible workers is huge.
Flexible working most often refers to ‘flexitime’ where staff are able to alter their start and finish times outside of a core working period, as long as the total adds up to the required hours over a set period of time. However it can also refer to working arrangements where the employee chooses the time, duration and location of their work. The many benefits of flexible working for staff include better work-life balance and a reduction in rush-hour stress, for employers it can mean improved recruitment and staff retention.
What is company culture and why is it important?
Call it company culture, corporate ethos or organisational culture it can be vital to shaping the behaviour and attitude of employees towards their work. Management experts believe that company culture is a major force for driving productivity, employee engagement and, ultimately, business results.
In the modern connected world, company culture can also rapidly affect the reputation of the firm beyond the workplace. Toxic workplace cultures have recently adversely affected the public view of a number of big firms who have hit the headlines. However a new report has revealed that poor company culture is costing the UK economy £23.6 billion a year. Yet over half of the SME leaders consulted thought of company culture as an optional ‘nice to have’ rather than a positive factor which delivers a competitive advantage. Busy with gaining new customers and balancing finances, many small businesses can easily overlook the importance of a positive company culture.
Businesses increasing the amount of flexible working to support a more productive company culture are also having to re-think how to keep their staff connected when they may be present at different times. Managers play a crucial role in building and communicating company culture.
Tips on maintaining a positive company culture:
- Communication – it’s important that managers communicate regularly with their employees to share their thinking and develop trust and a sense of purpose.
- Lead by example – simple top-down communication is no longer enough; managers need to be part of the collaborative environment which they want to encourage. So don’t just manage from your office, you need to be out amongst your staff listening to them.
- Appreciation – showing appreciation for a job well done goes a long way to creating a positive vibe. Employees who feel appreciated will have a stronger connection with the business.
- Planning ahead – managers of a flexible workforce need to easily see the working patterns of individual staff; this will increase knowledge and the opportunities to connect but also allow them to schedule occasional team-meetings and team building social events.
There’s no doubt that digital technology has enabled more flexible working. It’s no surprise then that digital technology can also help firms to keep their workforce connected and engender a positive company culture. For example, managers can use a cloud-based time and attendance system to keep a track of employees on varied working patterns. You can choose a variety of clocking-in methods and have anytime, anywhere access to real-time dashboards to see who’s clocked and who hasn’t.
uAttend offers an excellent way to reap the benefits of flexible working and keep an accurate and fair track of hours being worked.