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Can flexible working work for small businesses?

FSB recently took part in a workshop organised by the West Yorkshire Combined Authorities (WYCA) looking at how flexible working contributes to inclusive growth.

Flexible working covers a range of practices including working from home, flexible hours, part-time hours and unpaid leave.

Research carried out by Timewise was presented showing that 9 out of 10 employees want to work flexibly but only 1 in 8 jobs were advertised with flexible working options.

The advantages for employees are obvious but what about for small businesses? Emma Stewart, Co-Founder & Joint CEO of Timewise, said: “Employers will always want to know what are the business benefits for embracing flexible working, and particularly for advertising job vacancies as open to flexible or part time working at the point of hire.

"The answer essentially is access to the best possible talent. Our research shows that almost 9 in 10 workers in the UK either have some flexibility in how they work or want it. With so few employers referencing anything about flexible working in their recruitment process, offering flexibility not only gives you a bigger pool of candidates to choose from, but it will also give you the edge over your less flexible rivals.

“Once you’ve got the best people in, and spent time and money training them, it makes sense to try and keep them. And whereas financial incentives only tend to buy short term loyalty, real flexibility is harder to come by – and so more likely to encourage people to stay.”

Interestingly although many jobs aren’t advertised as offering flexible working, once in post many people are given the opportunity to work flexibly. This is especially the case in small business as in a small workforce there is a real understanding of the pressures employees face outside of work. 

The key lesson I took away was that small businesses should think about the advantages being open to flexible working can give them, especially if you are struggling to attract the right staff. There is evidence building that many people will put flexible work above higher pay when making career choices.