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Adopting Flexible Working in the Green Space Sector

Flexible working is becoming commonplace, and increasingly a key factor in job choice and retention. To be competitive in the jobs market, the green space sector needs to be realistic about this and consider how flexibility can work well for all. 

The Green Space Skills Hub has identified flexibility as a route to widening the talent pool for vacancies and creating career paths that suit experienced staff as their lives change over time. Flexibility comes in a variety of ways, some of which employers might already be offering and could talk about more explicitly. Flexible working can work for operational as well as office-based roles, and with changes in the law coming, employers need to be ready to understand how flexible working can work for them. 

At this Hub Session, we heard from two experts in the area: Jo Basu, Business Development Director at Timewise; a social enterprise working with employers, candidates, policymakers and influencers to provide support for flexible working. And Denise Hales, Employment Programme Manager at Groundwork London, has supported many employers adopt flexible working.

What does flexible working mean?

Flexible working is any arrangement that allows employees to work outside of the traditional schedule. There are many different types of flexible working arrangements, some of the most common include:

  • Part-time hours or term-time/annualised hours.
  • Working from home/hybrid working: This typically includes flexibility on an employee’s hours and may split their time between an office, home or other location that is convenient for them.
  • Flexible hours: Employees are able to start and finish work at different times, as long as they work the same number of hours per week.
  • Compressed hours: This allows for an employee to work longer hours per day, but fewer days per week.
  • Job sharing: Two or more employees share one job.

Changes in the law

Forthcoming legislation – due in the first quarter of next year – will stipulate that employees will have the right to request flexible working from Day 1 of employment (and two times per year) and employers will be obligated to fully explore all the options before making a decision on such requests. It is in the interest of employers and organisations to look at their flexible working strategy now in order to prepare for this new legislation.

Benefits for businesses

Attract and retain top talent

Flexible working can help businesses to attract and retain top talent in the green space sector. In a survey by Timewise, 90% of respondents said that they want the option of flexible working, 50% of people say they have flexible working currently, and yet only 30% of job adverts offer it. 

Improve productivity and reduce costs

Flexible working can also improve productivity. Studies have shown that flexible workers are more likely to be engaged and productive than those who do not have flexible working arrangements. 

There’s a direct correlation between flexible working and improved well-being. In flexible working pilots, Timewise found within just a couple of years, investment in flexible working interventions can outweigh the costs and begin to deliver financial returns in the form of savings made through reduced sickness absence and reduced staff turnover.” Findings show 10-33% less sickness absence overall and 33-50+% fewer one-day sickness absences. 

Improve employee morale

Flexible working can also improve employee morale. Employees who are able to work flexibly are more likely to be happy and satisfied with their jobs. This has been tested through four pilots in construction with overwhelmingly positive feedback:

“Before flexible working, people were shattered. If they had to stay late for a concrete pour they would still come in at 7am the next morning because they would be worried about ’knowing looks’ if they arrived late. That’s all gone now; if you finish late you come in later. People are less fatigued and happier.” Manager, Willmott Dixon

Benefits for employees

Improved work-life balance

Flexible working can help employees to achieve a better work-life balance. Employees who are able to work flexibly are more likely to be able to balance their work commitments with their personal commitments, such as caring for children or elderly relatives. 

“I have a team member who has Parkinson’s and he now does not work on Wednesdays to break up the week and make it more manageable for him.” – Manager, BAM Construct

Reduced stress levels

Flexible working can also help to reduce stress levels. Employees who are able to work flexibly are less likely to feel stressed about work, as they have more control over their working hours.

Increased job satisfaction

Flexible working can also lead to increased job satisfaction. Employees who are able to work flexibly are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, as they feel that they have more control over their work-life.

How to adopt flexible working in the green space sector

There are a number of ways that businesses in the green space sector can adopt flexible working. Here are a few tips:

  • Start small: Start by offering flexible working to a small number of employees and then gradually roll it out to more employees as you get more comfortable with it.
  • Be flexible: Be flexible with your employees’ needs. Not all employees will want the same flexible working arrangements. Some employees may want to work fewer days, while others may want to start and finish work earlier or later. Be willing to work with your employees to find flexible working arrangements that work for everyone.
  • Communicate effectively: Communicate effectively with your employees about your flexible working policy. Make sure that everyone understands the policy and how it works.
  • Track the results: Track the results of your flexible working policy. This will help you to see if it is working and if it is having the desired benefits.
  • Get support: Timewise and Groundwork London can offer expert support to find the best flexible practices for you.

Useful resources

    • Flexible Working Pilots: Operational on-site teams in construction and the clear turnaround in terms of mindsets and team engagement once they had experienced flexible working on-site (first report and a 1 year on review)
    • Industry useful 10-point plan that maps out how to go about thinking and working towards implementing a flexible working framework within an organisation.
    •  A recent Day One Flex webinar with the Minister and two Heads of HR (Zurich and Wickes) talking about why flexible working and flexible hiring is so important, regardless of the sector.