Time to break the 9-to-5 mindset: why flexible working is essential for growing businesses
Almost 40% of workers in the UK are either part time, self employed, or a combination of the two, according to the Office for National Statistics. And with the vast majority of them working like this by choice, not necessity, what we are seeing is a dramatic shift away from traditional employment patterns.
There was a time when part-time workers were seen as less committed than their full-time colleagues – as if hours worked were in some way a reflection of commitment. This notion is hopefully now as redundant as the telex machine, “big hair” and suits with padded shoulders. The fact is that research shows flexible and part-time workers to be more productive and loyal.
In today’s world, employers that fail to break out of the old 9-to-5 mindset are putting themselves at a disadvantage. Not only are they fishing in an ever-diminishing talent pool, but they are also missing out on the added value that flexible workers can provide. Flexible workers often have specialist skills that growing businesses could not afford to pay for on a full-time basis. Part-time contracts can give employers access to valuable, often strategic, skills. For example, part-time finance or HR directors can be particularly helpful over transitional growth periods or for specific projects.
Then there is the fact that flexible working allows you to align experience (and cost) with the appropriate type of work to be done. But before considering any new hires, make sure you are already operating as efficiently as possible. The senior team should consider which tasks they must perform personally, and which could be delegated to others – including flexible workers. That way the leaders focus on leading.
Companies responding to growth opportunities can use flexible workers to scale up their operations gradually, or to provide key skills at certain times. Perhaps to innovate, enter new markets, or cover key posts during critical periods.
How is technology changing the workplace?
The driver behind this change is technology. Skilled, motivated people are choosing to work where and when required because technology lets them stay connected with customers and colleagues. At the same time they avoid the commute and can balance home and family commitments. In addition to technology, there is a long-term trend that is transferring power from institutions to individuals.
Employment rights have developed to encourage and protect flexible working as an option. This can only continue as more of today’s workers place a high value on flexibility.
More than ever, employers must compete to attract the best people. So providing flexibility as an employment option can only lead to greater motivation and commitment.
The exciting part is that flexible working is not restricted to large employers. Dynamic smaller companies can attract skilled workers who want to work for a decent hourly rate in an environment where they can make a difference.
Ironically, the options open to SMEs are limited only by their own flexibility. Workers are looking for part-time hours, flexible hours, remote working, interim work, consultancy or contractor engagements. It has never been easier to draft in the right skill-set at the right time and for the duration necessary.
Perhaps it’s time to challenge the flexibility of your own mindset, and consider the ways in which flexible workers could help you overcome strategic or operational challenges. In a world where 9-to-5 has been replaced by 24/7 they offer low risk with a potentially high reward. And as the song goes: what a way to make a livin’.