Flexible working: how and why it works.

July 10, 2018


According to www.mentalhealth.org.uk, increased working hours in the UK is having a cumulative impact on our lifestyle, and it’s likely to be damaging our mental wellbeing too. The website goes on to say that “the pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture in the UK is perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population”.

Do you feel that juggling a career and a family is impossible? Do you need some sort of miracle just to make it through the week? Did you wave goodbye to ‘me-time’ long ago? If so, you might want to consider putting in a flexible working request.

What is flexible working and who’s entitled to it?

In the summer of 2014 a law was passed so that all UK employees have the right to request flexible work arrangements. It’s called ‘making a statutory application’ and the only criteria is that you must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible.

How should you go about requesting flexible working?

Make sure you’re clued up on your company’s flexible working policy and be prepared with your reasons for making the request. Think about your ‘why’ – the stronger your argument for flexible working, the better chance you have that it’ll be considered.

Hopefully the request process will be a smooth one, but if you feel that your employer hasn’t handled your request in a reasonable manner, you can take them to an employment tribunal. And likewise, your employer can refuse an application if they have a good business reason for doing so.

What types of flexible working are available?

Flexible working gives you choices and freedom in terms of your contracted hours and your location. There are various types of flexibility that you can request – here’s a rundown of your options:

  • Job sharing
    This is where two people do one job and split the hours. 
  • Working from home
    It might be possible to do some, or all, of your work from home, rather than the normal place of work.
  • Part time
    This means you’re working less than full-time hours (usually by working fewer days or shortened days).
  • Compressed hours
    Working a week’s full-time hours but over fewer days.
  • Flexi-time
    In this instance, the employee chooses when to start and end work (within agreed limits) but works certain ‘core hours’, e.g. 10am to 4pm every day.
  • Annualised hours
    Here, the employee must work a certain number of hours over the year but they have some flexibility about when they work. There are sometimes ‘core hours’ which the employee regularly works each week, and they work the rest of their hours flexibly or when there’s extra demand at work. 
  • Staggered hours
    With staggered hours, the employee has different start, finish and break times from other workers.
  • Phased retirement
    The default retirement age has been phased out in recent years and now, older workers can choose when they want to retire. This means they can reduce their hours and work part time.

Why flexible working works

When it comes to work arrangements, an employer and employee’s priorities might be different; but if they can come to some agreement and understanding, there’s no reason why both business and personal goals can’t be met.

It’s a scary fact that in Oct 2018, work-related stress cost Britain 12.5 million working days, and a reason why many companies within the UK are open to flexible working. It’s all about give and take and having reasonable expectations.

Flexible working at Three

At Three we encourage flexible working. There’s no doubt that employees who have the freedom to prioritise their time and juggle stuff successfully, are generally more productive, effective and engaged in the workplace. And because we’re experts in mobile tech – with Mobile Broadband solutions such as Mobile Wi-Fi dongles being high on our list of priorities – we encourage people to log in from home, from the café, or wherever they need to be. That’s why phones are good. They give you so much flexibility!

Three employees who are based in the office use an online platform that combines chat, meetings, notes, and attachments. It’s perfect for collaboration and so easy to keep a track of workloads, projects and shared files. When Three employees work remotely, they use VPN (via their home or Mobile Wi-Fi) to access to the IT network and are effectively able to ‘dial in’ to the office. Staff can also access the online collaboration app and their work inbox on their mobile phone, for added flexibility.

At Three, we’re also great believers in speaking to people in person. While email and chat services are really useful, our online tool allows you to set up video calls, so you can see and hear colleagues as if you were in the office.

Flexible working in action

We’ve interviewed a few of our lovely employees to find out how flexible working works for them. First up, is Madeline Hutton who’s a Radio Access Network Property Manager at Three. Madeline has a job share, so we asked what a typical working week looks like for her, and how she feels about flexible working:

What does a typical working week look like for you?
The week is split with each of us working 3 days – so there’s a cross-over day where Jane and I are both working and we take this opportunity to review projects, update each other and agree how new work should be managed. As part of the larger team we have a calendar where we flag our location and our diary is open so we can see what each of us is doing and where. As we’re both fairly flexible, we’re always happy to swap days and make conference calls as required, providing we’re available. The work is largely office based, with some home working and meetings offsite.

What’s the best part of flexible working for you?
Without a doubt the best part of flexible working is being able to participate in my children’s lives more fully than I would do if I worked full time. I also feel it’s important to be a role model for them and to show how a great work ethic can be achieved through hard work. Another great advantage in working flexibly is that I genuinely really enjoy working and going to work, because it can be done around my other commitments. I think we often get so involved with our day-to-day work that we forget why we are working in the first place and who we are doing it all for.

I feel my colleague and I have been pioneers in job sharing within Three because we started over 8 years ago and have proved that it can work well long-term. However, we’re also very aware that we can only do it with the support and encouragement of the people around us. I sincerely believe that the people who work for Three are helping to change how people will work in the future for the better, not only through our technology, but also through our own ways of working.

Next up, is Ray who’s one of our Copywriters within the Content team at Three:

What does a typical working week look like for you?
Well, I recently got a new puppy, so that’s taking up a whole lot of my time. Basically, I’m up around six to feed her and take her for a walk, then I head into my tiny home office room to start work somewhere between 7:30 and 9. I work on a few different projects at any one time, so I prioritise whatever’s most important. I start a little early so that I can take the pup out for a couple of extra breaks during the day, and take my lunch somewhere in the middle. My wife usually gets back from work at about 5, so she takes over dog duties once the day is rounding up.

How does technology support you in your specific flexible working situation?
Well, I couldn’t do any of this if I wasn’t able to work from home, so it’s great to be able to log into our systems remotely. Plus, I keep our messaging system open on my phone and check my emails that way too, so that when I’m taking the puppy out I know I’m not going to miss anything.

Are you happy with your work/life balance?
Completely. This is the only real way I think we could have managed things. I’m trusted to put in the required hours and to get the work done, and after that I’m left to my own devices – it’s great to be allowed the flexibility to figure out your own pattern.

If you had to be in the office Mon-Fri, 9-5 would you be able to do the job that you currently do?
If I didn’t have the flexibility to work from home, I’d still be able to do my job just fine, but we wouldn’t have decided to get a puppy. So, it would have been a much greyer existence…

So, there we have it. It makes sense for employers to embrace flexible working, and it really could be the answer you’re looking for when it comes to reducing stress and finding that all-important work/life balance. With the new technology that phones offer, there’s so many ways to make your life that bit easier. And if you fancy joining us at Three, feel free to find out more about us and our current vacancies.

Having your own business

And for the ultimate in flexible working, you can’t beat having your own business. More and more people are seeing the benefits of starting up on their own and staying connected with simple, great value business phonesBusiness Broadband and Business SIM only plans on Three. Get in touch with our specialist business team to find out how we can keep you connected.