Achieving work-life balance has always been a struggle for employees, and with today's mounting professional pressures coupled with personal responsibilities, life has become more stressful and monotonous.
To break this monotony, working from home can be a flexible, alternative option. In fact, flexible work options are not just available for part-time jobs, but companies are now providing this choice for full-time positions across a wide spectrum of jobs such as sales assistant, managers and software engineers.
"I always recall Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, predicting in the '90s that more people will work from home in the next 10 years, and his predictions have become profoundly true," says Gina Le Prevost, CEO of AP Technical.
Flexible working is becoming an increasingly common practice, with figures suggesting that 92% of generation Y recognise flexibility as a priority when choosing a company.
Interestingly, it is not just women who mostly prefer to work from home, but figures suggest that it is far from being a female trend, as 63% of homeworkers are male.
While employees enjoy working from the comfort of home, some managers worry that this might lead to shirking.
Instead, research suggests that companies can actually benefit from flexible work programs. Such programs can increase work-productivity, reduce sickness leaves and improve candidate loyalty. Most employees also show more willingness to work extra hours.
Working from home enables employees to avoid office politics and other general distractions, thus allowing them to work from their own independent space.
"At AP Group we do have some staff working from home, and it suits their personal lives very well. If we can accommodate it more, we will do. In fact, technology has made things much easier for staff to access their computers from anywhere in the world."
"Although we have only been asked on a couple of occasions by clients to find them a candidate who has the option to work from home, this, I am sure, will become more significant in the coming years," she adds.
But while homeworking has significant benefits, this may not be practical for all employees, jobs, industries and companies. For some employees, the office environment can boost their level of motivation, thereby enhancing work performance. Similarly, small companies may have their own limits on supporting flexibility of all their employers, as it may put additional strain on the resources.
"It depends on the location where the company is based and on the nature of the company. Some organisations have taken on this idea a lot quicker than others, and set a trend for others to replicate, primarily because of their robust IT infrastructure," Gina explains.
Therefore, introducing flexible work programs requires thorough planning and research. Companies who manage to do this continue to grow while offering good scope to their employees for greater work-life balance.
So, here are some of the flexible working options that could be available to you:
Part-time work: Working half days, shorter days or less than five days a week. This is a popular option for post-maternity/paternity or for those who want more time to study or other interests. To cover a full-time position, the company might arrange job sharing between two part-time employees.
Flexitime: An increasingly popular option that provides workers with some control over their hours, particularly start and finish times.
Annualised hours: Originally used by seasonal industries, annualised hours schemes now help other employers deal with fluctuating workloads by stipulating a set number of hours per year an employee is required to work.
Zero-hours contracts: These guarantee workers no work at all but require them to be “on call”. You’re most likely to come across zero-hours contracts in nursing, retail or supply teaching.
Term-time working: Ideal for working parents. This allows employees time off during school holidays.
Compressed hours: The working week is restructured with the same number of hours worked in fewer days. For example, working four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days and gain a day off a week.
V-time working: This is a voluntary arrangement that reduces work hours for an agreed period, with a guarantee that they will go back to full-time employment at a specific date.
Job sharing: When two part-time employees share the work and pay of a single full-time job.
Location Flexibility: The ability to work wherever is convenient for you.
Phased retirement: Allowing an employee who is approaching retirement age to continue working with a reduced workload, and eventually transition from full-time work to full-time retirement.