A increasing number of Banbury businesses are offering their workforce the option of flexible working hours the benefits and pitfalls of which were discussed during the Banbury Chamber of Commerce Live event.
Among these are Brethertons Solicitors and Wellers Accountants who have recently began offering flexible working hours to some of their employees.
Brian Auld, head of commercial practice at Brethertons said: “We’re a service provider so we need to offer a continuity of service to our clients so managing their expectations and those of individuals is really important.
“If a client comes to you with a problem they don’t want to be passed from one individual to another.
He added: “It’s not a panacea but its a way of working we have had to embrace and that you need to get it right with the individual and the quality of service.”
Simon Smith of Wellers, who employ more than 100 people, brought in the flexible working hours earlier this year.
Simon said: “So far we believe it’s been a great success. It has improved staff morale. We are not noticing any difference whatsoever, no drop in productivity, no drop in standards.
“There were one or two teething issues like making sure someone is there at 4 o’clock on a Friday afternoon and that the whole office haven’t gone.
“In general we have found it has made us much more attractive as employers. We also do home working for our senior members of staff where they have ten days a year where they can work from home.
“All in all so far it appears to be going pretty well. It is something that we as partners have put the onus onto the managers to make sure it works and to come back to us if there are any staff issues.
He added: “There are some older members of staff who are very set in their ways nine to five who find it very difficult to change their ways.
“It makes them feel slightly uneasy without the rigidity of being told when to leave and when to come back but the modern working person just loves it.”
Although the benefits of offering flexible working hours to employees has been well documented there is still some resistance among businesses to adopt the idea.
For some the loss of rigidity is a factor while for larger more established companies, decades old traditional working practices and the logistics of implementing flexible work hours are the stumbling blocks.
There is also resistance in some quarters to the idea of flexible hours as it hands over autonomy to the employees.
It is, however on the rise. Lucy Haworth of 923 Jobs, said: “There are a lot more companies using it now than there was three years ago.
“It’s a conversation that is much easier to have with smaller firms. Large corporations are talking the talk but not really walking the walk. They need more time to change the infrastructure and to change attitudes.”
It is also handing back work opportunities to a large section of the population.
Lucy said: “There are some people who are in a position where they can’t work full- time. They have a disability or they have caring responsibilities for elderly relatives,, they need to check on them at certain times in the day.
“There is a misconception that they can’t work because they cannot commit to a full- time job. Those people come to us looking for part-time roles or less traditional hours so they can still fit that in.
Four-day weeks and other variants of flexible working have been successfully trailed and Lucy sees the increase in their availability as a result of a number of factors.
Lucy said: “I think the gender pay gap is a significant factor. The promotion of disability awareness and just the whole emphasis has changed for employers to become more inclusive. It’s about creating a community within the workforce.”