Flexible working is a term used to describe a variety of alternative approaches to the way we work. So, how many are there, and what are they?
The answer is – lots! We can break them down into key categories to better understand the different types. These are when you work, where you work, and how you work.
For when you work, we can consider the time of day that you work, the days of the week you work and your weekly working rhythm.
Matthew Walker, in his 2017 book ‘Why We Sleep‘, recognises that different people have different working rhythms and prefer to work at different times of the day. Me, I’m a morning person and like to get up and work, while other people might feel more productive in the afternoon or evening. Walker calls these two rhythms ‘Morning Larks’ and ‘Night Owls’.
The Science Behind Morning and Night People
The author goes on to recognise that neither is better or worse than the other, and people should follow their personal rhythm, as this is the body telling the person how to best operate.
Society attempts to dictate a ‘9-to-5’ mentality and assert that productive people rise early. This can put a serious strain on the Night Owls.
Many employers offer the ability to flex hours by adjusting the start and end time of your day. This is generally within a window of time, i.e. starting between 8 to 10am. If your employer doesn’t offer this or you need something that’s beyond what’s on offer, you have the right to request these hours from your employer, see Your Right to Flexible Working.
Where you work covers remote working, a desk within an office, working from home or using a remote workspace. Would you be surprised if I told you I was writing this article on a TGV train doing 225km/hour across the French countryside? Probably not. But then geographically flexible working has become so much more usual practice over the past 10 years.
Working at a desk in an office is still the most common approach when we talk about the option of where to work. It has, however, changed significantly. Open-plan offices, social work spaces, hot desking, and privacy cubicles are some of the recent changes in office design. They have been made in recognition of the fluid nature of modern business and the reduction in rigid, hierarchical power structures.
Working from home can be both beneficial and difficult. The reduced commute and the opportunity to use such time productively can be incredibly useful. The challenge can be to organise your space well and to ensure your personal life does not encroach on your work productivity. Guides for how to work at home are often available from employers and simple tools and techniques can really help you to be successful at working from home.
Remote working spaces have become very popular over the past 10 years. Major cities and even train stations with their own ‘offices’ can be found across the UK, and these can provide a great halfway house between working from home and going all the way into the office.
And, as mentioned, we have geographically flexible working. Essentially, this does not require the physical presence of the individual, meaning they can work from anywhere in the world. The challenges to this approach can be communication across time zones and ready access to the necessary technology for communication.
How You Work
Finally, we have the option of how you work. Flexible working means lots of different approaches to work and we have tried to recognise as many of these as possible in the DuoMe process.
The UK government recognises job sharing, working from home, part-time working, compressed hours, flexi time, annualised hours, staggered hours and phased retirement, as valid approaches to flexible working.
- Job sharing consists of one role being fulfilled by two or more people who share the responsibilities of delivering the objectives of that role in a way that suits both their needs.
- Part-time working is any role that involves less than full-time working hours. Compressed hours is working full-time hours, but doing so over fewer days.
- Meanwhile, with flexi-time, the employee chooses when to start or end work and also contains a specific core hour segment.
- Working annualised hours, the employee agrees to work a number of hours over a period of one year and they have flexibility as to how they will do this.
- Staggered hours are when the employee has different finish, start, or break times from other employees.
- Finally, we have phased retirement, which allows older workers to choose when they will retire and they can reduce their hours to part-time in anticipation of this.
Government policy ensures all of these flexible working options are available to you, if you are a full-time employee with over 26 weeks of service. I hope that gaining an understanding of each of these approaches will help you choose the right working option for you.