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5 types of flexible working arrangements for SMEs in 2024

By Sally McKibbin | |8 minute read

Offering flexible working arrangements has become a key strategy for organisations looking to enhance productivity, boost employee morale, retain talent, and gain a competitive edge in a tight job market.

And while the advantages of embracing flexible work are undeniable, understanding how to juggle the demand for flexibility alongside existing business needs can leave many leaders – particularly those in SMEs – feeling overwhelmed and potentially resistant to change.

But with the demand for flexible working only set to increase, it’s important for leaders to understand what their options are when it comes to flexible working and how to find land on an arrangement that works for their business and employees.

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Understand employer obligations

First things first, it’s important for employers to be aware of their obligations. Employees are entitled to request flexible working arrangements if they meet certain criteria. They must have a minimum of 12 months of service with the company, which includes both permanent and long-term casual staff. Additionally, they must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • They are parents or carers for children of school age or younger.
  • They are carers for individuals with disabilities, medical conditions, mental illnesses, or elderly family members.
  • They are aged 55 or older.
  • They have a disability.
  • They are dealing with family or domestic violence or providing support to someone facing violence from a family member.

Upon receiving a request, employers are required to respond in writing within 21 days, either approving or denying it. A request can only be refused on reasonable grounds, which should be outlined in your written response. However, many employers proactively offer flexible working arrangements to all their employees as standard practice.

The business case for flexible working

The concept of flexible working gained popularity following the pandemic, where public health mandates and lockdowns forced many workers out of the workplace and into their homes. Consequently, employees everywhere discovered the advantages of not being tethered to a physical office location, and many saw increases in productivity, performance, job satisfaction, and work/life balance.

It’s clear that flexible working is here to stay. A recent survey of over 1,000 workers in Australia revealed that nearly all desire flexibility in their workplace, while a striking 43 per cent stated they would consider leaving an employer that didn’t offer flexibility.

But flexible working is good for business, too. According to data from Indeed, 56 per cent of employees reported increased productivity when working from home, and 48 per cent felt more engaged with their work in a remote set-up. Many remote workers appreciate the autonomy and improved work/life balance, leading to enhanced overall wellbeing.

In a highly competitive job market where job seekers have the upper hand, businesses that embrace flexibility have a distinct advantage in not just attracting and retaining top talent but also in nurturing happier, more engaged, and more productive employees.

5 types of flexible work arrangements to consider

1. Hybrid work

Hybrid working allows employees to split their time between working in the office and working remotely. Office days and remote days may be fixed or flexible, depending on the needs of the company.

Pros:

  • Potential for higher productivity and job satisfaction.
  • Offers flexibility to employees with varying work preferences and responsibilities.

Cons:

  • May pose challenges for team integration.
  • Requires effective communication strategies to prevent gaps in collaboration.

2. Remote working

Remote working allows employees to work from anywhere as long as they have the necessary equipment. In this arrangement, employees can work from almost any location, such as their home, a co-working space, a telecentre, or other worksites, such as a client’s office. Remote employees also have the ability to be located anywhere geographically, whether that’s in the same city, interstate, or even in a different country entirely.

Pros:

  • Cost savings on office-related expenses.
  • Increased employee productivity due to reduced commute time and fewer workplace distractions.

Cons:

  • Requires vigilant monitoring of remote employee wellbeing and performance.
  • Potential for blurred work/life boundaries.

3. Flexitime

A flexitime or flex-time arrangement involves removing the traditional 9am–5pm schedule and instead offering employees more flexibility in their work week. Most companies operating on a flexitime arrangement allow employees to choose when their workday begins and ends as long as they work a certain number of hours per day or per week. For instance, one employee might choose to work 8am–4pm, while another may find that 10am–6pm works better for them.

Pros:

  • It’s suitable for employees with personal commitments outside of work.
  • Reduces commute-related stress.

Cons:

  • Coordination challenges for meetings and team interactions.
  • May require designated in-office hours.

4. Compressed workweek

A compressed workweek refers to an arrangement in which employees can work their contracted hours over fewer workdays. The four-day workweek is a perfect example of this. For example, if an employee is contracted to work 40 hours a week, they may choose to work 10 hours over four days.

Pros:

  • Reduces office overhead costs.
  • Provides extended weekends for employees.

Cons:

  • Potential workload issues for other team members.
  • Difficulty in finding replacement staff for days off.

5. Job sharing

Job sharing refers to a working arrangement in which two part-time employees complete the same job on different days – effectively sharing the role one full-time worker might fill. For instance, one employee may work Monday and Tuesday, with their job-share partner picking up where they left off on Thursday and Friday.

Pros:

  • It’s easier to find part-time employees.
  • Enhanced creativity through diverse perspectives.

Cons:

  • Success depends on the compatibility of job-sharing partners.
  • Initial adjustment period required for seamless collaboration.

Flexible working arrangements are essential in today’s job market, providing advantages to both employees and employers. While each arrangement offers unique benefits, it’s crucial to address the associated challenges effectively. By understanding and implementing these options thoughtfully, organisations can tap into the full potential of flexible work arrangements while ensuring the wellbeing and productivity of their workforce.

Sally McKibbin is a career coach at Indeed.

RELATED TERMS

Hybrid working

In a hybrid work environment, individuals are allowed to work from a different location occasionally but are still required to come into the office at least once a week. With the phrase "hybrid workplace," which denotes an office that may accommodate interactions between in-person and remote workers, "hybrid work" can also refer to a physical location.

Remote working

Professionals can use remote work as a working method to do business away from a regular office setting. It is predicated on the idea that work need not be carried out in a certain location to be successful.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.