I believe it is the ability of small business to offer innovative flexible working patterns that has helped create this boom. To me, small means agile, forward-thinking and adaptable. The workplace is changing; workers want more freedom than a standard 9 to 5 and it is within the SME sector that I have seen the greatest shift in embracing flexible working patterns, whether that’s through part-time work, remote working or smart, innovative schedules that match business needs.
Yet I’ve also found that there is still misinformation and confusion surrounding flexible working. Here are the top five offenders:
1. Hiring flexible workers means more red tape
Often employers dismiss flexible working options for fear of extra red tape, which is understandably off-putting for smaller businesses with less HR resource. Yet hiring somebody to work part-time or remotely works in exactly the same way as hiring a full-time employee. There’s a wealth of information on this to be found online, such as the Business is Great website.
2. ’Part time’ often means ‘part commitment’
The idea that flexible structures only work for low-skilled jobs, where employees hold little responsibility and have no company loyalty, is massively outdated. Timewise has matched thousands of highly-skilled candidates who bring enormous value and commitment to employers, ranging from HR directors, to finance managers, to marketing executives. Small business owners now have more opportunity than ever to access business-enriching talent within their own financial capabilities.?
3. Remote workers will be less productive
Advancements in technology mean that most tasks can now be fulfilled from home, at least some of the time, but many employers are still hesitant to offer remote working for fear that less work will be done. Yet a 2013 study by the London School of Economics and Political Science found that employees able to work from home are more productive than their office-bound colleagues because they are less distracted, grateful for flexibility and save time on commuting.
4. It’s hard to find people who actually want to work flexibly
Many small businesses don’t consider flexible work options simply because they don’t know where to find the talent. I set up Timewise with co-founder Emma Stewart to make the flexible work market more visible. We now have a network of 60,000 people seeking flexible work, and this is growing daily.
5. There are no clear advantages for business
The small businesses I know that offer flexible working regularly cite the benefits of flexibility, which include being able to hire two skilled members of staff for the price of one; having access to a wider, more diverse talent pool; and retaining brilliant staff for the long term. We are finding that when employers rewrite the rule book on where and when you can work, business can truly thrive, and new ideas with it.
Karen Mattison is co-founder of Timewise, a recruitment website specialising in part time and flexible roles.