What is flexible working?.

Flexible working is any arrangement made between the employer and the employee to amend their work pattern in place, hours or frequency.

In this definition, flexible working usually starts with an employee request; by "flexibility" we don't mean employers unilaterally expecting their workers to be available at all times, or with no notice. Rather, we see flexible working as an honest conversation between both parties on what's needed and what's expected.

Employers are increasingly giving employees an element of freedom to define a working arrangement that supports their lifestyle. Traditionally associated with the needs of parents and carers, many organisations now recognise the business benefits of a more flexible way of working.

The Building Blocks of Flexible Working

There is no one size fits all when it comes to flexible and family friendly working. And of course organisations of different sizes have different approaches, for example smaller organisations are likely to have much fewer formal policies than larger organisations. Here are some of the building blocks to help you consider your approach.


The behaviours and language used by employers, particularly the leaders, are so powerful when it comes to setting the tone for what is considered flexible and family friendly ways of working. Think about the way your business communicates and if there’s anything you could improve.


Getting the basics right is important but writing a flexible working policy is only the first step. Guidance on how to use the policies for both line managers and employees is even more important than the procedural stuff.

Workplace Support

Having easy to understand documentation along with Line Managers who are trained in how to deal with flexible working requests goes a long way towards creating the right culture and environment.


There are a variety of different ways to gather evidence of effective family friendly and flexible working practice. From HR information on absence and turnover to employee engagement surveys, they will help you understand what’s currently working and those areas that would benefit from having more focus to help build that culture. Build your flexible and family friendly policies into your business KPIs.

More and more we see productivity increase, staff turnover reduce, and morale improve when employers get it right.


Look at how other employers in your sector are performing on flexible working culture and find out how you compare.

Types of Flexible Working

So what does flexible working look like? It will be unique to each individual but here’s some examples below:

Job sharing

Two people do one job and split the hours.

Working remotely

It might be possible to do some or all of the work from home from a shared/co-working space other than the normal place of work.

Part time

Working less than full-time hours (usually by working fewer days).

Compressed hours

Working full-time hours but over fewer days.


The employee chooses when to start and end work (within agreed limits) but works certain ‘core hours’, eg 10am to 4pm every day.

Annualised hours

The employee has to 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

The employee has different start, finish and break times from other workers.

Phased retirement

Default retirement age has been phased out and older workers can choose when they want to retire. This means they can reduce their hours and work part time.