by Rotageek on 14 June 2021
Over the last year, the demand for flexible working has dramatically grown. Whether it be to better balance family life, work fairer hours or have more choice over when they clock in - deskless employees are becoming more aware and more vocal about their needs for flexibility.
However whilst many organisations stepped up to grant flexibility during the pandemic (and reaped the benefits), this rate has begun to drop, with almost half of employees still not being offered flexible working arrangements in their current role. It seems there are still vast concerns from organisations about how and why they should implement such practices.
With the workforce not as bountiful as it once was, retailers need to analyse how they can create environments that not only attract more talent but keep current employees happy. There has therefore never been a better time to increase flexibility in the workplace.
Here we share the benefits of flexible working for employers, as well as their people.
When employers consider flexibility, they often think of remote working or allowing staff to pick and choose their hours. Understandably, this is almost impossible in a deskless environment where workers need to be onsite and shifts need to be filled - and therefore organisations tend to shy away from offering any kind of flexible working.
However, employees' expectations of flexibility are actually much simpler. In fact, what most deskless workers want is to have autonomy over which shifts they work rather than sticking to one predetermined pattern.
Historically, employers have been hesitant to let their people express preferences in regards to their shifts - whether they are office-based or not. Many feel that workers won’t want the hours and that they’ll end up with no staff on the shop floor and a complex, stressful scheduling process. Yet in reality, employees crave the stability of regular income and are commonly trying to combine enough shifts to reach a full-time salary, particularly when on zero-hour or part-time contracts.
Therefore if organisations provided employees with the option to be flexible over their working lives, they’d not only benefit from better productivity and motivation, they’d reap financial rewards too.
A common issue with flexible working in retail is that individual stores can’t offer enough varied shifts to accommodate employee needs. However by looking at stores as clusters rather than independently operating locations, they can provide a marketplace of shifts available to a wider network.
This opens opportunities for employees to reach the capacity of a full-time contract without having to pick up a second job or be tempted away by competitors who can offer more hours. For example, students can work in their university town during term time and at home during the holidays. Or sites that experience higher levels of traffic during certain times of the year can increase their service using neighbouring teams rather than temporary hires.
Offering multi-location flexibility also quickens the process of finding cover, filling schedule gaps and managing leave requests, tasks that take managers hours of time every week that could be better spent on the shopfloor.
Rotas are typically created in a fixed pattern; one individual is full-time, one always finishes by 3 pm to do the school run, one can only do Thursdays etc. However, most people don’t operate this way every week of the year. The employees with children might have occasionally shared childcare, or after school activities that mean, they can do a longer shift once a month. By inviting employee input, employers can access ‘unknown availability’ and benefit from more optimised scheduling.
This also results in a fairer, collaborative process. When shifts need filling, frequently present employees are often first to be asked if they can provide cover. This limits the employees with less hours to pick up more and can result in suspected favouritism. In this way, flexible working also helps businesses to reduce their gender pay gap, by allowing female workers to better balance work and family life.
As the retail talent landscape remains scarce, employers must do what they can to stand out from their competitors. One clear factor that attracts talent and keeps employees satisfied is flexible working arrangements, with 87% of people prioritising flexibility at work.
It not only broadens the talent pool, welcoming a diverse range of individuals who can do more than the set hours but additionally appeals to millennials, a group who favour company values and flexibility and are said to make up over a third of the UK labour workforce.
Benefits of flexible working practices also directly impact company loyalty, employee wellbeing and overall morale - all factors that contribute to an individual’s productivity and the likelihood of remaining within an organisation, with higher engagement and flexibility reducing staff turnover by up to 87%.
In 2021, flexibility should no longer be granted as per request after a negotiation process with HR and management - it must become a core employer offer to ensure an organisation can compete to attract new talent.
Flexible working within a deskless environment is not as simple as offering flexible hours or introducing home working. However, there are innovative digital solutions to overcoming such complexities which in turn result in many business benefits.
Smarter employee scheduling is the first step to implementing flexibility within a non-office based environment such as high street stores and franchise fast-food establishments. Leading technology such as Rotageek’s automatic scheduling software allows managers to deliver optimised, compliant rotas in minutes, using historical data and forecasting trends in addition to employee preferences. Users can ‘self-roster’ by inputting their own availability and swapping shifts directly from their phone across multiple store locations.
This has multiple benefits for both the workforce and the employer, reducing manual administration and wasted labour spend whilst supporting the deskless workers’ need for autonomy and flexibility.