Long gone are the days of 9-5. Flexible working is fast becoming the new norm, with just 6% of British people stating that they are now working traditional hours.
The concept has traditionally been associated with the needs of parents and carers, but increasingly organisations are recognising the business benefits of a more flexible way of working. In some sectors, this works well, enabling employees to fit work around their other commitments, and meaning they don’t necessarily need to be in the office to do their job.
This post explores flexible working in more detail – and how logistics companies can adapt.
Flexible working and the benefits
Changes in the law in June 2014 meant that staff could apply for flexible working even if they didn’t have children or acted as someone’s carer. There are reasons an employer can reject a request for flexible working, based on whether they believe there will be a negative impact on customer demand or enhanced business costs.
Working hours and patterns that suit their life was a top criteria for a ‘good job’, according to 61% of people surveyed by food chain McDonald’s and YouGov. Why? Put simply, it provides a better work-life balance across all generations. Both students (83%) and parents (78%) reported a better ability to manage family commitments and studying when working flexible hours.
It’s not just beneficial to employees though. Flexibility boosts employee morale, leading to improved motivation, wellbeing, satisfaction and better productivity, which for some businesses has ultimately resulted in improved profits. HSBC even found that flexible working was rated as a better incentive for productivity than monetary rewards.
69% of employees also said working flexibly encouraged them to stay in their job for longer, meaning a lower staff turnover for employers. And better employee wellbeing means reducing the millions of days lost to work-related stress and anxiety.
Offering flexible working
The definition of flexible working is far from drastic. Some of the options you may come across are:
- Part time working– employees are contracted to work less than standard full-time hours.
- Working from home– employees will spend all or part of the week working away from the working premises
- Job sharing– a full-time job can be split between two employees who agree the hours between them
- Compressed hours– employees cover their standard working hours in fewer working days
- Flexi-time– employees are able to work the hours they choose within a set of core hours
The study by YouGov found that most people (58%) simply want to start earlier than 9am so they can finish earlier than 5pm – with 8am-4pm being the most popular suggestion from 37% of respondents. Remote working is also a way to provide flexibility, with employees fulfilling their duties from home or even in transit in some cases.
Another suggestion, highlighted by the Trade Union Council (TUC), is a four-day maximum working week. Trialled by businesses in New Zealand, it was hailed an unmitigated success, with 78% of employees feeling they were able to successfully manage their work-life balance and 88% feeling more committed to staying with their employer. With advancing technology and artificial intelligence potentially providing a £200 billion economic boost within the next decade, we could see over 3.6 million jobs being replaced by machines by 2030. Instead of ‘replacing’, could we use these machines to support our workers, thereby making the country more productive and further enabling a shorter working week. TUC research found that, when asked for a suitable maximum working week with this in mind, most people chose four days.
But what if you have never had a ‘standard’ 9-5 working day?
In some industries, like healthcare, production and logistics, the idea of flexible hours or a four-day working week doesn’t seem to fit. It’s not quite as practical to have employees choosing their own hours when you need to cope with the demand of a 24-7 service.
The demand for a 24-7 service means that it is highly impractical for nurses to work from home or choose their hours when patients require care around the clock. And the case is similar for logistics, where the requirement for a more dynamic supply chain means that distribution centres operate continuously. As next-day and even same-day delivery becomes the norm for most eCommerce businesses, and is now expected by many consumers, companies need to be able to pick, pack and ship goods at speed in order to remain agile.
Unfortunately, these agile practices don’t commonly fit with employees working remotely or and businesses struggle to facilitate changes in their standard shift patterns. This all comes as the logistics industry openly admits to having difficulty in attracting and maintaining Millennials and female employees – who are the most vocal in their support of flexible working. Could this be the answer to getting more young people involved in the profession?
The good news? Although flexibility and a 24-7 service don’t immediately go hand in hand, it’s not impossible to combine the two…
Managing your workforce effectively
To strike a balance between flexibility and productivity, companies need to ensure their workforce is effective from top to bottom. Take working hours into account and provide achievable workloads within those hours. That could mean taking on more employees to facilitate flexible working.
To survive in logistics, you need to be fast, efficient and flexible. It is an ‘evolve or die’ scenario for many businesses. Firms must embrace change in order to meet the changing industry, which is especially the case as Brexit continues to unfold.
Bis Henderson Recruitment can provide support in sourcing the candidates you need to drive your business forward, whether that be in a full-time position or with flexible working hours. Our industry experts are well positioned to help clients understand the impact these changes could have on their supply chains – and make the most of opportunities it provides for employees and employers.