Flexible working: Is it the reason your office is empty on a Friday?

Flexi-time is where it’s at in 2019, but do early finishes mean losing that Friday feeling at work?

BrightHR Team

Flexible working is a big deal these days. And most businesses have jumped on board, with 85% of companies all over the world offering their employees flexi-time.

And the demand is high—one study even showed that a third of staff members would rather get more flexibility than a hefty pay rise.

But while flexi-time is where it’s at, it can still sneak into the media for the wrong reasons…

The breaking news story

Media agency Starcom recently emailed its London staff to say it was unhappy about how “noticeably empty” the office had become on Fridays, going on to say that if attendance didn’t improve, it might shut down flexi-time altogether.

The email read: “While we understand that Friday is a common day to work flexibly, we want to bring back the ‘Friday feeling’ in the office.”

Starcom didn’t suggest employees were trying to shirk their responsibilities—staff just found Fridays a particularly convenient time to use their flexi-time.

But there’s been a media backlash. And the question people are asking is, if Fridays are quiet but employees are productive and hitting their targets, does it even matter?

The legal bit

The government defines flexible working as “a way of working that suits an employee’s needs. For example, having flexible start and finish times, or working from home.”

The law says that all employees with more than 26 weeks’ service have the legal right to request flexible working or changes to their working pattern. And as an employer, you must give these requests fair consideration. You can refuse them—but you should have a good business reason to back this up.

So Starcom may want staff in the office on Fridays for its company culture, but there’s no legal issue with its people using their flexi-time on Fridays.

And even if Friday afternoons are quieter, flexible working still comes with a bunch of benefits for your business. Let’s take a look at a few:

Why you should consider flexible working

1. Empowers employees

A rigid 9-5 work schedule isn’t always convenient, especially when kids are off sick or the boiler breaks…

Giving staff control of their own schedule and working environment shows you appreciate they have personal lives and commitments outside of work, and this fosters trust, improves morale and encourages job satisfaction.

2. Cuts out the commute

Crowds of people, train delays, traffic jams… the commute can be a stressful part of the working day. Let’s say the commute takes an hour. Do that twice a day, five days a week, and that adds up to 40 hours a month… that’s a lot of time spent travelling.  

Flexible working can help staff dodge rush hour traffic—or side-step it altogether if they’re working from home. And cutting down on commuting can reduce stress and increase energy levels and productivity, which is good news for your staff’s wellbeing and your business.

3. Attracts and keeps top talent

Flexible working is also a big pull for jobseekers. One recent survey showed that 83% of people would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working.

Not only is flexi-time a pull for new recruits, it helps you keep hold of your best people, too. So if you don’t move with the times, your employees might look for jobs elsewhere…

4. Reduces staff absence

Staff sickness is inevitable, especially in the autumn and winter months when everyone’s fighting off colds.

And you know what it’s like when you’re unwell—sure, you might feel okay sitting at your computer at home in your PJs next to a constant supply of Lemsip, but battling public transport in the rain and having to be sociable with colleagues can be a bit much.

Giving your employees the option to work from home means they won’t always need to take a sick day when they’re feeling under the weather, and it stops other people getting sick, too.

Try it out

Of course, flexible working isn’t possible for all businesses. For example, staff wouldn’t be able to work from home if they worked in, say, a supermarket, a hairdressers, or the service industry.

But if it is possible for you to offer flexible working for your employees, now is the time. Feeling unsure? Run it as a trial period, and see how it goes.

And if you need any HR support or employment law advice, BrightAdvice is just a phone call away. You can speak to one of our friendly experts 24/7 on 0800 783 2806.