Flexible working is on the rise as more and more people are choosing to prioritise a healthy work-life balance. It’s a popular choice with new mums as flexible working allows them to fit work around their home commitments, and more office workers are looking for an alternative to the dreaded commute, even if it’s only for a few days a week.
When you work for a big company, flexible working requests are taken very seriously, and there are only a handful of reasons that a business can turn down a request. The law is very strict and protects workers rights, meaning that any employer falling foul of these rules will find themselves facing a dispute resolution solicitor and the possibility of a hefty fine.
But what happens when you’re running the show? One of the perks of running your own small business is that you can decide where you work and for how long. It sounds like a huge luxury, but it actually comes with a huge amount of responsibility. Whatever your reasons for wanting to switch to a more flexible schedule, there are some important steps you need to consider before taking the plunge.
Be Strict with Yourself
The problem with allowing yourself some leeway with your working hours is that you might take advantage of your own generosity. What do I mean by this? Picture the scene…
It’s a beautiful day and the kids are screaming to go to the park. You decide to clock off early and start work a little earlier tomorrow to catch up. Tomorrow comes and you actually start work late because you decided to give yourself a little lie-in. By the end of the week, you’ve lost a full day here and there and you’re going to have to make them up over the weekend or fall behind.
It’s not pretty, but it happens when small business owners fail to set and stick to strict hours. Straying from the usual Monday-Friday 9-5 working pattern is fine, as long as you set a plan and stick to it. Flexible doesn’t necessarily mean that you work when you want to.
Keep Everyone in the Loop
If a client expects you to be working at 5pm on a Friday and you haven’t told them otherwise, you shouldn’t be surprised when you receive an irate email from them wondering why they can’t reach you. If you stray from the normal office hours, make sure everyone who needs to know is kept in the loop. At the very least, set an auto-responder that outlines your working hours so people will clearly be able to see when they can next reach you.
If you employ anyone or work alongside anyone, you will need to make sure they have access to all the required information when you aren’t around. Using programmes like Evernote or Asana can help you to keep all important information in one place, so that tasks will still be completed in your absence.
Have you switched to flexible working yet? What advice would you give to someone hoping to make the switch?
Rebecca Harper is a freelance writer living in London. After studying English at university, she decided to pursue a career as a freelance writer with a focus on business, politics and law. You can follow her on Twitter.