It’s interesting to note that a recent study by Investors in People revealed that 32 per cent of employees would prefer to take flexible working arrangements over a pay rise.
Flexible working can take various forms and covers anything that doesn’t correspond to standard working patterns. This could include changes to the number of hours an employee works, the
times they work (flexitime) or options to work from home – either full time or on certain days.
Since the introduction of the UK’s first ‘work-life balance’ initiative back in 2000, it appears that jobs in finance have only continued to cause increased stress year on year.
And with UK mental health charity Mind finding that over 1 in 3 (34%) of people stating that work was the most stressful factor in their lives, flexible working has become a useful option in ensuring a good work-life balance and therefore better mental health for employees.
There are, as with anything, pros and cons to offering flexible roles in your finance team, and in this article, we will look at some of the benefits to employee and employer, as well as some of the negatives associated with flexible roles.
The Positives for the Employee
There are tangible benefits for flexible working patterns for the employee, and this type of work generally eases stress in individuals and helps achieve a better work-life balance overall.
Control over your schedule and working environment
Control over schedule means you can factor in other things during the day and work earlier or later if that suits you better. This can bring great relief to individuals who struggle to fit their commitments around a standard working day.
Additionally, some people work a lot better on their own, for example, in their own home office, where they can work without interruption and concentrate on the task in hand.
Work during the hours that best fit your energy cycles
If you’re an early bird, starting work at an earlier hour means you are better focused to deal with those balance sheet reconciliations when you need to concentrate.
Alternatively, if you’re more of a night owl who prefers to get to grips with cashflow forecasting later in the day, flexible hours offer the opportunity to give it your all when you feel on top form.
And with 58 per cent of people believing that working away from the office would make them feel more motivated, it would seem that working hours that fit an individual’s energy patterns could get better results for the business.
Flexibility to meet family and personal needs
For employees with commitments such as childcare, flexible working offers the chance to work full time (in hours) but with the availability to be able to take and collect children from day-care, attend doctors’ appointments, go to the dentist and so on.
Reduced commuting time and gas expenses
It goes without saying that avoiding the daily commute, traffic jams, train delays and other daily problems makes working life a lot less stressful.
The Powwownow survey also found that almost 45 per cent of people spend over an hour commuting a day. This can often lead to increased stress levels – 66 per cent of commuters say they feel stressed or flustered at least once a week.
In addition, the financial rewards of avoiding having to fill your car up regularly, or use expensive public transport, are an added bonus.
The Positives for the Employer
So, what are the benefits for the employer?
Firstly, staff who have varying work patterns or are working from home are less likely to be late or absent from work.
Without having to negotiate a sometimes long and arduous commute at rush hour or have to consider taking time off for personal appointments, they are more likely to be at their desk when they should be.
Boosts staff morale
Everyone enjoys the option of being able to take flexible hours. Enabling a better balance of home and work life means better mental health, and your finance team are more likely to feel committed and loyal to a company that does its best to accommodate them – appreciating that they are people with lives outside work, not just cogs in the wheel of the business.
Helps employee retention
Where staff morale is high, the level of staff retention is also higher. Staff who work for a company that is flexible and understands the needs of its employees are more likely to stay with that business.
Offers a diverse and inclusive workplace
A business that offers a family-friendly place to work, that appreciates its staff and encourages a company culture of inclusivity will be a magnet to top finance talent looking to work for a progressive and thoughtful business.
Offering flexible options enables the business to open its doors to top finance candidates who otherwise may not have been able to apply for a job if it entailed working standard hours in the office.
When Flexible Roles Go Wrong
So far, so good.
But of course, there are potential downsides with flexible working patterns.
Firstly, for employees:
Virtual employees who have little or no interaction with other colleagues may feel out of the loop. Being able to chat with finance colleagues daily about projects enables everyone to keep up to date. Additionally, interaction helps develop a sense of belonging and instils loyalty to the team.
Working from home can sometimes lead to confusion over work/home time. It’s easy for your loved ones to encroach on your work time if you don’t stick to strict guidelines about when you are working and when you are free.
Additionally, having no clear delineation between work and home can make it challenging to keep the two separate. A home office is ideal as you can be physically ‘at work’, but if you don’t have space, your laptop on the dining room table can soon become a chaotic area if children are running around you or your partner is trying to make dinner while you are attempting to finalise the end of month accounts.
Moreover, if your laptop is within arm’s reach in the evening, its far too easy to check up on emails or just finish a project – blurring the lines between home and work and making it difficult for you to switch off.
And what about the downside for employers?
While it’s fair to say that many finance employees are trustworthy and can work well without supervision, it’s also true that others are not. From distractions that may interfere with them getting on with work, to clarification over tasks, sometimes individuals require the guidance of their manager.
Having staff working flexible hours can also prove challenging to tie in with customer needs. If your Finance Manager works compressed hours on a three-day week, what happens if a client wishes to speak to them on the days they are off?
Additionally, arranging calls, scheduling training and meetings can be difficult when everyone isn’t present at the same time in the same place.
Finally, it is almost inevitable that while some job roles lend themselves to flexible work patterns, others do not. And this can lead to feelings of unfairness in the office when your HR Manager can work from home, or compress hours, while your Accounting Manager is required to be present in the office.
It will come as no surprise that finance professionals are all too aware of the negative impacts of a poor, overworked lifestyle.
By offering flexible working arrangements, you can not only improve the lives of individuals with better work-life balance but introduce a great company culture. This is a positive for your business reputation, in retaining and attracting top finance talent, and for achieving overall success.
And, with overwhelming research to suggest that businesses with poor company culture are far more likely to fail, ensuring a positive company culture should be top of your agenda.
It’s worth bearing in mind that for flexible options to work efficiently and to avoid discord, the standards need to be the same for all staff: there should be an element of flexible working offered to everyone.
If this is not possible, an alternative compensatory benefit (such as breakfast or Friday drinks), will ensure all staff are happy and feel fairly treated.
Overall, there are many potential advantages for both employee and employer to offering flexible working arrangements, and therefore it’s a structure that is worth considering.
If you need further food for thought, the IWG Global Workplace Survey 2019 found that 85 per cent of business leaders confirmed flexible working has made their business more productive and a remarkable 67 per cent think that flexibility can improve productivity by at least a fifth.
Improved wellbeing, reduced stress and increased motivation are always good for the bottom line, and a company that is known for its flexibility and excellent company culture is a draw for other professionals looking to work for a finance team with a great reputation.
Contact Rebus Financial Recruitment or call us on 01282 930930 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options. With our help, you can achieve great things.
About Rebus Financial Recruitment
Rebus Financial Recruitment provides a specialist and focused recruitment service to its customers, which historically range from a wide variety of organisations including SME’s to large PLCs.
We strive to offer both the client and candidate a seamless recruitment experience. Using our expertise, we get to the heart of employer and employee needs; and, in doing so, we match the two perfectly. To find out more, get in contact with one of our team today, or you can call us on 01282 930930.