Flexible working can take many forms, some of the most common are:
- Part-time working: work is generally considered part-time when employers are contracted to work anything less than full-time hours.
- Term-time working: a worker remains on a permanent contract but can take paid/unpaid leave during school holidays.
- Job-sharing: a form of part-time working where two (or occasionally more) people share the responsibility for a job between them.
- Flexitime: allows employees to choose, within certain set limits, when to begin and end work.
- Compressed hours: compressed working weeks (or fortnights) don’t necessarily involve a reduction in total hours or any extension in individual choice over which hours are worked. The central feature is reallocation of work into fewer and longer blocks during the week.
- Annual hours: the period within which full-time employees must work is defined over a whole year.
- Working from home on a regular basis: workers regularly spend time working from home.
- Mobile working/teleworking: this permits employees to work all or part of their working week at a location remote from the employer’s workplace.
- Career breaks: career breaks, or sabbaticals, are extended periods of leave – normally unpaid – of up to five years or more.
Flexible working arrangements can be made available to employees on a formal or informal basis. Working from home is the type of flexible working practice most likely to be offered on the basis of informal arrangements according to the survey.
Evidence from Cranfield1 is that senior workers (who tend to be men) are more likely to make informal arrangements about where they work and that lower grade workers (who are mainly women) are more likely to seek formal arrangements in their working hours. This was confirmed by speakers from BT and HBOS at a CIPD Diversity Conference in May 2008.
Flexible working is also an approach used in the management of workforce planning. According to ourWorkforce planning guide over half of organisations use flexible working as part of their approach to workforce planning.
CIPD research on employee attitudes and the psychological contract demonstrates a correlation between a flexible working and positive contract. An employee survey carried out for CIPD by Kingston University/Ipsos MORI found that ‘workers on flexible contracts tend to be more emotionally engaged, more satisfied with their work, more likely to speak positively about their organisation and less likely to quit’3.
Flexible working also enables employees to achieve a better work-life balance.