What are the different types of flexible working?

What are the different types of flexible working?

As the workplace has changed beyond recognition over the years, so too has the choice of flexible working on offer.

Where once you could only choose to work part-time hours, today you can pick from as many as a dozen different ways to change your work day for the better. Nearly half of employees now enjoy some sort of flexible arrangement. And even though only one in ten jobs are advertised as being open to flexible working, political pressure is helping to encourage more employers to follow this trend.

We’ve outlined six of the most common practices below. It’s unlikely that all will be on offer at your place of work but if there’s one which you think suits you best, you can always ask for it to be considered if it’s missing.

It’s worth noting that the precise details of any flexible working practice aren’t set in stone – and are likely to differ between companies. You could also find your employer agrees to a mix of methods such as both flexitime and home-working together.

All that really matters is you and your employer being happy to agree on any kind of practice that suits you both.

Flexitime

You choose the time to start and finish your working day. This may particularly suit you if you have family commitments at set times - e.g. a later start to fit in the morning school run or early exit for an afternoon pick-up. It can also help if you have a long or difficult commute.

In many cases, you’ll need to be either at work or available on call during what are called ‘core’ hours. These are key times when your colleagues can rely on you or get hold of you urgently if needed.

So a typical day might see you arrive at work anywhere between 7am and 10am, with your core hours between 10am and 12pm, and 2pm and 3pm. You can then leave at the appropriate time which reflects your start time.

It means you’ll work your normal full hours across the week but at times that better fit your personal life.

Working from home

Thanks to WiFi, laptops and greater online security, it’s now easier than ever to work from home. So long as you have a decent internet connection, most tasks from a typical office can be done from the comfort of a kitchen table.

As well as sparing you commuting costs (and time), you may also be able to ask to start – and finish – earlier too. It can be a game changer for those with childcare to manage or a relative to look after, or – for others without such pressures - a chance to focus 100% on a work project away from an office’s often noisy demands.

It also frees up space in hot-desking offices, cuts business costs and keep employees happy so it’s no surprise that lots of companies encourage it. While many simply opt to work one or two days a week from home, you could consider other home choices with your employer:

  • Work full-time from home, taking trips out to meet customers and visit the office for routine catch-ups with colleagues  
  • Spend half your work time in the office, the other half at home or out with customers  
  • Agree to base yourself in the office but work from home when you need to

Mobile working or ‘teleworking’

Like home working (see above), you simply spend all or part of your week away from your workplace.

The difference is your choice of location – usually agreed in advance to make sure it’s suitable. This may typically include a local branch, serviced office, library or coffee bar. Be alert to any security danger, though. For example, if you handle sensitive commercial information in your job, logging onto your work laptop in a library or café with public WiFi could expose you to the risk of information being stolen by hackers.

The nine-day fortnight

If you’re highly adaptable and able to skilfully prioritise your tasks, this may suit you.

You’ll still be working full time but cramming, or ‘compressing’ as it’s known to employers, your usual number of hours into fewer days.

In this case, it means you pack 10 days’ worth of work into nine – giving you a day off every fortnight.

You don’t always have to work nine days in a row to get the tenth off. As long as you rotate a full five-day week with a four-day week, you can often choose which day to keep free. It’s worth stressing that if you have plenty of other responsibilities outside the office, working longer hours on fewer days can have a major impact on your spare time – so do check if it’s a suitable option for you.

The four-and-a-half-day week

Similar to the nine-day fortnight, you’ll still be working full time but cramming your hours into fewer days – in this case, four and a half (or four in many cases).

Again, you won’t always have to work four days in a row before taking the fifth (usually Friday) off. As employers try to help those who need flexibility, you should find you’re able to choose which weekday you keep free. And – as with the 9-day version – be wary if you have plenty of other responsibilities outside the office. Working longer hours on fewer days can have a major impact on your spare time, so check if it’s a feasible option for you.

Job sharing

You share a full-time job with a colleague but work at different times that suit you both. Between yourselves and your employer, you decide on what hours you do, how the role will be split and ways to keep each other up to date.

To get the green light for this kind of arrangement, you’ll need to show your employer how you can share your job effectively – and that there won’t be any disruption.

With two of you in the same role, you’ll need to decide if one needs to be in charge. If so, what are the guidelines for individual responsibilities and, critically, who sets them?

A job share usually means a big cut in work hours and pay so take a very careful look at your finances to make sure you can manage the lower take-home pay.

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