Flexible Working Definition & Types

Flexible Working: The Advantages And Disadvantages

This article will explore the advantages and disadvantages of flexible working in detail to help you make the best decision for your career.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working is an arrangement where employees can choose their own working hours and patterns. It can be done in several ways, such as working from home, part-time, or compressed hours. Flexible working is becoming increasingly popular in today's workforce, as it offers several benefits for employees and employers.

Flexible working has many benefits, such as increased productivity, lower absence levels, and improved work-life balance. It can also help attract and retain talent, as more and more people are looking for flexible workplaces.

If you're thinking of introducing flexible working into your business, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you'll need to assess whether the business can support it. You'll also need to put together guidelines and policies to ensure everyone is on the same page. Finally, you'll need to ensure that you have the right technology.

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Flexible working examples

Flexible work arrangements encompass a wide range of options that give employees more control over when, where, and how they work. Here are some common examples:

  • Telecommuting/Remote Work: This arrangement allows employees to work from home or another remote location, rather than commuting to an office.

  • Hybrid Work: This model combines telecommuting and in-office work, allowing employees to split their time between the two.

  • Flextime: This arrangement gives employees flexibility in setting their start and end times, typically within a specified range of core hours.

  • Compressed Workweek: This arrangement allows employees to work fewer days per week while maintaining full-time hours. For instance, they might work 40 hours over four days instead of five.

  • Job Sharing: This arrangement involves two or more employees sharing the responsibilities of a single full-time position. This allows each person to work part-time while still covering the full workload.

  • Annualized Hours: This arrangement focuses on the total hours worked over a year rather than a set schedule. Employees can vary their hours based on workload fluctuations.

  • Phased Retirement: This arrangement allows older employees to gradually reduce their work hours or responsibilities before fully retiring.

  • Unlimited Time Off: This policy provides employees with the flexibility to take time off as needed, without having to track individual days or hours.

Handling flexible working arrangement requests asking for flexible working?

The flexibility of working arrangements is a statutory right for some employees. However, anyone can request flexible working arrangements from their employer.

You must:

  • Employees only, not agency workers, except those returning from parental leave or in military service

  • Worked continuously for 26 weeks for your employer before applying

  • The last 12 months have not seen another application for the right to work flexibly

The law requires your employer to consider your application seriously and to reject it only for reasonable business reasons. It is your right to request flexible working, not your right to receive it. A legitimate business ground can allow an employer to deny your application in a reasonable manner.

Employees who do not have the legal right to request flexible working are often willing to consider flexible working requests submitted by their employer.

Advantages of flexible working

Advantages of Flexible working

Businesses can benefit from flexible working in both direct and indirect ways. Business benefits include space savings, such as remote working and hot desks, which can be achieved through technological advancements. Additionally, flexible working helps to better match resources with demand, such as providing 24-hour customer service.

Improved employee job satisfaction and well-being result in indirect business benefits. Studies indicate that flexible workers are happier, more committed, and more likely to put forth discretionary effort than those who do not do so. According to a study, flexible working can reduce absence rates, support mental health, and make it easier for employees to manage disabilities and long-term health problems.

With changing employee expectations about jobs, careers, and work-life balance, flexible working options can also appeal to employees and recruits. Our guide to creating caregiver-friendly workplaces can help employees balance work with other responsibilities, such as caring, as demographic changes impact the need to balance work with caring.

The flexibility of working has many benefits. A study found that flexible workers had a 30% increase in productivity. In addition, 97% of managers reported that the quality of work improved or stayed the same for workers. In addition, the quantity of work stayed the same or increased.

Disadvantages of flexible working

Flexibility in the workplace would be ideal if it were perfect in every way, but as with everything business related, there are some drawbacks. 

Occasionally, employers or managers find their employees take advantage of flexible work too much - slacking off or spending time with their friends instead of working. Also, flexible working could be better for jobs that involve customer interaction, such as shop employees or nursing home assistants. Additionally, it can make it harder for your company to maintain its processes as they should.

Interestingly, flexible working only sometimes boosts staff motivation. Those who spend less time in the office may need help integrating into your team and office culture. You can, however, mitigate this by organizing work socials and promoting integration from the top down.

Employees might experience a loss of balance between work and personal life as a result of flexible working. Whether night or day, if they have to check their emails or take calls constantly, it's impossible for them to relax and switch off.

Encourage your employees to set boundaries and prioritize work before it starts.

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Is flexible working right for my company?

The benefits of flexible working are numerous for both employees and businesses. Some people, however, don't find it worth it. That is why evaluating your team and organization's strengths, weaknesses, and obligations is critical.

For example, can your people complete their work outside the office if you run an easily flexible and remote business? 

Employees who are physically present and involved in the process may need help implementing it. 

The study found that staff value the balance between work and life more than they value remuneration. When companies are flexible from the start, they can attract a broad range of talent, be more productive, and be more engaged with their workers. 

How to apply for flexible working?

If you are eligible to apply, there is a statutory procedure you must follow. The statutory procedure requires your employer to consider a request for up to 14 weeks after you make it. Therefore, you should speak with your employer as soon as possible if you consider changing your work schedule.

A permanent change in your employment contract may result if your employer agrees to your request. You will also receive lower pay if you request a flexible working pattern, such as a reduced work schedule.

The statutory process is still useful if you do not have the right to request flexible work. You should speak with your employer as early as possible if you cannot do so.

Make your application

It is necessary to consider the following for your application:

  • To take effect on time, the application should be made well in advance

  • The application should be send by letter or email in writing

  • Indicate that the request for flexible working is based on the statutory right to request one

  • Indicate the date from which you want the flexible working pattern to begin in your application

  • The application should explain possible solutions for issues that may rise with the change in work patterns. 

What to include in your application


Employers may inform you what information you have omitted if you fail to provide all information necessary so that you can resubmit a completed application. You must complete and resubmit the application to ensure your employer considers it.

Your employer's right is to treat your application as withdrawn if you unreasonably do not provide the information needed to determine whether to approve the change. Under the statutory procedure, you will be prevented from submitting another application within the next 12 months.

Your employer should be informed of the potential benefits of flexibility as much as possible.

The plan you develop should demonstrate that it won't harm your business and might even enhance it, so you should understand its impact on your job. You can provide better customer service if you provide extra coverage during peak hours.

The decision about whether to grant your request should be made by your employer rather than by personal circumstances. It does not matter if you have previously applied for separate caring responsibilities. You are only allowed to apply for one application every year.

If you disagree otherwise, any changes made will be permanent. Making permanent changes to your employment contract should not be taken lightly. If you have concerns about flex-time, ask your employer for a trial period.

How a flexible working request can affect your terms and conditions

It is advisable to be paid 'pro rata' if your hour's change from those you had previously worked. 

You get paid pro rata when you work half as much as the full-time position requires. For example, if your full-time job is 35 hours a week and you work 17.5 hours, you make half what you would earn working full-time.

Additionally, you should receive pro rata holidays and other benefits. 

You can file a claim with an employment tribunal if your employer has given you worse terms and conditions. This is due to your new working arrangements. It is possible to file a discrimination claim in this case. In the same way, you might be given worse terms and conditions if you switch from full-time to part-time work.

You will retain your statutory employment rights while working flexibly, such as:

  • Itemized pay statements
  • Claiming unfair dismissal
  • Statutory minimum notice
  • Term and condition statement 
  • The longer period of maternity leave


The right to join or remain in an occupational pension scheme should not be affected by reducing your working hours. It is unlawful for an occupational pension scheme to exclude part-time workers. If your salary decreases due to flexible working, it may affect what you get if you are laid off.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • 'Flexible working' refers to an employment arrangement that allows employees to work when, where, for how long, and for how long they want.

    Flexible working practices include:

    Part-time working: Employers contract to work less than full-time hours when they hire part-timers.

    Term-time working: When workers work during school holidays, they remain on permanent contracts but are entitled to paid or unpaid leave.

    Job-sharing: sharing responsibility for a job between two (or more) people part-time.

    Flexitime: allows employees to decide when to begin work and when to end it within set limits.

    Compressed hours: Compressed working weeks (or fortnights) do not necessarily involve a reduction in total work hours. Individuals can still choose which hours to work. This idea consists in breaking up work into shorter and larger chunks over the week.

    Useful Read: Workation Definition: A Complete Guide For Manager

    Compressed hours

    Annual hours: The number of hours to be worked in a year is fixed, but the length of the week and day varies throughout the year. It may or may not be possible for employees to choose their working hours.

    Remote work: Most employees spend part-time hours away from their employer's office. You can work from home or elsewhere, and you may also refer to this as mobile or teleworking.

    Related: Building Engagement with Remote Employees: Tips and Strategies

    Hybrid working: combining work from home with work from the office.

    Career breaks: sabbaticals are extended periods of unpaid time off, usually up to five years, in which people take career breaks.

    Commissioned outcomes: an individual is assigned a target output, but there are no fixed hours.

    Zero-hours contracts: the employee is paid only for hours worked, not a minimum number of hours guaranteed.

    Additionally, flexible working practices can include self-rostering, shifting shifts or taking time off to train employees. There are formal and informal flexible working arrangements. Companies may amend written employment contracts or have flexible working policies in employee handbooks to reflect flexible working policies. Flexible working, however, may be offered informally, such as working from home under the direction of a manager.

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Carin Vreede

Written by:

Carin Vreede

With years of experience in the HR field, Carin has a lot of experience with HR processes. As a content marketer, she translates this knowledge into engaging and informative content that helps companies optimize their HR processes and motivate and develop their employees.


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