Work and life fitting together in perfect harmony

Flexible working is one of the best inventions ever.

Changes in technology and culture have freed us (or at least some of us) from the the traditional 9-5 working pattern.

At Timetastic, we’ve spent a lot of time considering how to work better. We think flexible working is great, and it should be at least an option for the majority of workers in most companies. Here’s everything we know about the topic – with some further reading to explore down below.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working is a type of employment that suits the worker’s needs, instead of demanding a certain working schedule or location.

It means offering alternative options to the number of working hours, start and finish times, days of work, and even the location (office or home working).

In England, Wales and Scotland, any worker is entitled to ask for adaptability in the way they work (the rules are a bit different in Northern Ireland). Employers have to deal with flexible working requests in a ‘reasonable manner.’ That means they’ll have to consider the pros and cons of it, and offer good reasoning if they decide to decline it. (If they don’t, they’re liable to be taken to an employment tribunal.)

How to request flexible working

Previously, you had to wait for 26 weeks after your first day before asking for it, but as of April 2024, working law has changed – you can now request flexible working from day one.

There are two ways to ask – via statutory request and non-statutory request.

The first one is an officially documented request, and you can make two requests in any 12-month period. The second is an informal way to ask for flexible working arrangements. This type of request doesn’t have a set process dictated by law, but is typically made in writing.

Workers should check with their employer if there is an existing flexible working policy that covers non-statutory requests, which should make things easier. If the situation doesn’t meet the criteria for a statutory request, a non-statutory request can be a decent alternative, especially for short-term arrangements

So whether you’re looking for a way to expand your childcare options, deal with your caring responsibilities, or change the number of hours you work each week, you’ll always have the legal right to ask for it.

Is it the same as flexi-time?

Flexible working and flexitime are related concepts, but not quite the same. Flexible working is a broader concept, which can include job sharing, remote working, hybrid working, compressed hours, annualised hours, staggered hours, and phased retirement.

Flexi-time specifically refers to a system where employees can choose when to start and end work within agreed limits set by management, while still working certain 'core hours’.

Why we like flexible working

Flexible working used to be a great benefit offered by progressive companies. Times have changed, though, and it’s now a fundamental expectation for most modern workplaces.

In 2023, the UK had around 4.4 million employees on flexible working contracts.

The traditional 9-to-5 office workday feels a bit archaic in a world where tech frees us from the confines of a physical office.

At Timetastic, we champion flexible working not as a perk, but as a core component of a decent organisation. That’s not to say we’re rosy-eyed optimists – we know it’s not an option for every employee in every company. Some people simply need to be present at certain times to keep things working. And that’s fine.

But flexible working is an acknowledgment that employees have lives, passions, and responsibilities outside of their job roles. It's an admission that to harness the best of people’s abilities, we might have to give them a bit of autonomy in managing their time and location of work.

The benefits of flexible working

This philosophy is about trusting your team to know how they work best. It helps grow a company culture of respect, with higher morale, and should lead to higher productivity and job satisfaction.

When employees are given the freedom to weave work into their lives seamlessly, they're not just happier, but more committed and engaged.

And flexible working is an essential tool in the attraction and retention of top talent. Any firm offering a more adjustable working life might swing the needle for potential recruits.

It signals to them that they value their well-being and personal growth as much as their professional contributions.

For us, flexible working arrangements benefit employees but also boosts our company with diverse perspectives.

It makes employment more accessible to those who can’t commit to traditional working patterns due to caregiving responsibilities, health issues, or other personal commitments.

What’s not to love?

The different types of flexible working

There are a few different kinds – let’s clear up what’s available.

  1. Remote working: This one’s pretty obvious. The wonder of technology allows full-time and part-time employees to fulfil their roles from locations other than company sites. Some employees love it, some don’t – but being given the choice is usually popular.
  2. Flexitime: As we clarified above, flexitime allows individuals to adjust their start and finish times. It’s an arrangement that can be particularly beneficial for carers or parents, so they can align work commitments with caregiving responsibilities.
  3. Compressed hours: With this, employees complete their full-time hours over fewer days, so they end up with longer stretches of non-work time.
  4. Part-time working: A reduction in hours from the standard full-time commitment, part-time working is a flexible pattern of working fewer days or hours than a traditional workweek.
  5. Job sharing: In this arrangement, two or more workers share the responsibilities and benefits of a full-time position. This needs clear agreements around time limits and who does what, when.
  6. Annualised hours: This involves calculating work hours on an annual basis, then working them at the most suitable time. It’s often divided into ‘core hours’ and ‘flexible hours’, where the flexible ones are reserved for seasonal peaks or busy periods. This allows for greater flexibility for employees, and can be great for business reasons accommodating peaks and troughs through the year.
  7. Term-time working: This is a type of employment contract where employees work specific hours during school terms only. This arrangement allows for extended periods of time off during school holidays. Term-time contracts are common in industries related to education and hospitality, and they give flexibility for employees who are students themselves or have commitments during school breaks.

The demand for flexible working patterns is reflected in job adverts, with so many of them having flexible working as a key benefit. It’s clearly important for working families these days.

You can always try out flexi-working, using trial periods to see if it works for everyone. If it’s successful, you can make it a permanent change and add a code of practice to your employment policies.

Want to explore more? We’ve got some articles for you.

The Timetastic flexible working library

Our articles on flexible working look at how it impacts everything from team dynamics to individual well-being.

They’re a mix of practical guides and data-backed opinions on how we think this philosophy should be implemented.

We're championing a broader vision of the workplace—one that respects individual needs, promotes a healthy work-life balance, and recognises the varied, interesting lives of our team members.

Flexible working arrangements

The nine-day fortnight explained

Annualised hours: how they work and when to use them

Compressed hours: shorter working weeks, but at what cost?

Does the 4-day work week really work?

Figuring out work days

How many working weeks are in a year?

How many working days are in a year?

How many working hours are in a year?

How many working days are in a month?

Flexible work culture

Our time off policy (with examples you can steal)

What is TOIL (Time off in lieu) and how does it work?

Alternatives to the fixed office: the best places to work

How to build company culture with a remote workforce