Definition of flexible working

Flexible working gives employees flexibility on how long, where and when they work. Employees access flexible working through human resources policies, which usually require supervisory approval.

Flexible working is comprised of three main arrangements: full-time, part-time and career flexibility. Full-time flexible options include: 

  • Flexible hours (flextime) - the ability to choose the start and finish time of the working day within core hours;
  • Telework (flexplace) - the chance to work from home or another place one or several days a week;
  • Time banks - the ability to take time off in compensation for overtime;
  • Compressed work weeks - such as working four longer days and taking the fifth day of the week off, or working a nine day fortnight.

Part-time options include working a few days a week, say three days instead of the traditional five days, and other forms such as v-time-working. The "v" stands for voluntary reduced hours, with the individual working to an agreed reduced schedule for a certain period, for example during the school holidays, with the chance to work the usual hours after that period ends.

Job-sharing is also an interesting form of part-time flexible working where two people share a full-time position, either by working three days each in the week with one day of overlap or they alternate one week each.

Career flexibility (flex career) allows individuals to change careers and/or take career breaks for personal or family reasons without suffering career penalties. Career flexibility involves challenging the traditional career ladder of containing a continuously upward path with workers likely to fall back to the bottom of the career ladder if they change their careers.

Instead, a career lattice can be organised where individuals may take different paths, including lateral ones, and career breaks. Career flexibility also includes a gradual return from maternity leave, for instance, returning part-time for a certain period then going full-time afterwards. Career flexibility also includes gradual phasing into retirement such as going from full-time to part-time for a certain period and then retirement.

Examples
At Accenture in France, employees may work from home one to three days a week if their supervisor agrees to the arrangement. In 2011, fifty percent of support functions staff currently work from home.

The arrangement includes supervisor training on virtual management and a grievance procedure in case supervisors reject the request to work from home. With the telework agreement at Accenture, employee satisfaction with work-life balance has soared. 

Deloitte and Touche allows employees to leave the organisation for up to five years to pursue personal interests such as raising children or training for a sporting activity. (Source: Great Place to Work Institute).

At Hewlett Packard in Grenoble, France, there are VP positions filled by two people in a job share, where both partners get evaluated and promoted as a pair. [1]

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Human resources: power to the people