Although the concept of flexible working has been around for a while, only recently has it become a recognised way of working for the majority of people. Historically working parents (usually mothers) have requested it to help balance childcare responsibilities, and denial of these requests has been a leading cause of the female brain drain and massive gender inequality in leadership for many decades.
Romanie Thomas, founder and CEO of Juggle, an online skills platform matching flexible professionals with forward thinking companies, is keen for businesses to understand the benefits of flexible working, not just to help balance the gender inequality.
Flexible working can mean many things to many people and before the pandemic certainly had different connotations. Juggle was founded in 2017 in order to bring about change in gender inequality in leadership roles through flexible working. The issue of gender imbalance, especially at senior level, falls firmly in line with roles not being open to women needing flexibility. Before Coronavirus we were certainly looking at an education on how flexibility not only works for the professional but has huge benefits for employers.
Fast-forward to now and there is a different mind-set and COVID has shifted the needle for flexible working. Most companies, in some capacity have had to embrace a level of flexibility with its staff, whether that be simply moving to a remote working situation or whether it is allowing staff to work hours to fit around things like home-schooling or other caregiving.
However, as we look to the future what does flexibility mean for small businesses and how will the expectation of professionals affect the types of talent that are able to be attracted?
The first thing that businesses need to understand is, what is flexible working?
The answer is simply; Flexible working is a working pattern or schedule which is not Monday – Friday, 9-5 in a single office environment.
Juggle recognises flexible working as falling into one of the following three categories, all of which incorporate a level of remote working:
|Part-time||2-4 days per week||Either juggling another paid role or using the time to balance other things|
|Full-time with flex||4-5 days per week||High degree of autonomy over schedule to balance other things|
|Portfolio||1-8 days per month||Juggling another paid role|
Historically the benefits have seemed weighted towards the professional and offering the business very little benefit, even seeming like disadvantages. However, this is far from the reality and below we will explore some of the many advantages to small businesses to employ and manage senior staff in this way.
- Employing flexibly is great value for money.
Because the role is measured and paid based on time spent on that role, the business will save money by engaging someone on a part-time basis, employing and paying a self-employed professional and paying on days or hours clocked. Functions like finance, HR, and marketing, all have high levels of automation and available software within them now, meaning you can employ a high quality, tech-savvy professional on a part-time basis and configure a lot of the core execution work through intelligent platforms. This is a move from retaining agencies as the business gets a senior-level professional dedicated to their business for a similar cost as an agency that will often move juniors to accounts once they are signed up.
Some typical rates for senior-level professionals can be found here.
- You attract self-managing people.
To work flexibly, successfully, professionals must be highly organised and deliver high-quality work with little management. It is how referrals and contract extensions come about – when everything feels easy from the employer’s perspective and the results are delivered with little-to-no management and guidance. Businesses, especially ones without the functionality or understanding of the role in the business already, will reap these benefits and attract high quality, self-managing people simply by being ahead of the curve.
- When you employ flexibly, there are no hidden costs.
Flexible senior professionals typically work on a self-employed basis, meaning the rate you are quoted is the amount that you pay. There are no hidden benefits, tax, or national insurance on top. For small business owners, cash flow and management is of the utmost importance, so keeping on top of that with your most expensive outgoings (staff) in a flexible, lower-risk manner, makes a lot of sense even beyond the pandemic. Additionally, a large majority of senior-level professionals keep themselves ahead of industry updates and training and factor this into their costing, this means small businesses do not have weighty expenses on training & development.
- You can choose experience over inexperience.
Training programmes and hierarchical structures are the lifeblood of corporates, but small businesses do not have the infrastructure or finances to support such structures. These businesses need people who know their craft already and can simply get on with the job and these people tend to come at a huge cost to employ on a full-time, inflexible basis. Simply speaking, hiring a self-employed, flexible professional enables small businesses to hire the £100K person (that would actually cost £115k with taxes) for £60K.
- It is what people want.
In a study by HSBC in 2017 (pre-pandemic), they found that 87% of millennials maturing into the professional job market found that flexibility was the number one priority, well above remuneration. The pandemic has accelerated the trend towards flexibility even further, as people want more autonomy in their lives. A study by academics at Cardiff University and the University of Southampton found that nearly 90% of all those who have worked in a more flexible way during the pandemic wish to do so once it is over. This trend will mean that the most qualified and sought after professionals will be able to lead this swing, so to attract them small businesses will need to offer it
Finally, the most important thing for small businesses in any changing environment is; lead don’t follow.
Despite the pandemic, society is still early in the flexible working journey. By adopting it now, you can adapt much faster than others to the nuances involved and reap the subsequent benefits as well as making a name for yourself as an early adopter. This massive growth stage for Juggle is also why we launched a Crowdcube campaign on Monday 15th February and have seen a huge number of investors and supporters joining us on the journey. Now really is the time for flex.
Article by Romanie Thomas, founder & CEO of Juggle, a leading online skills platform, matching flexible professionals with forward-thinking businesses. Juggle are currently running a Crowdcube Campaign.