Flexible working is something that most businesses should aspire to. People have more stuff going on in their lives than their jobs and getting them out of that monotonous 9 to 5 will give them so much more opportunity to be 100% in all areas.

Regardless of it being 2020 the idea of compressed hours is still alien to a lot of people, particularly when it comes to men. In all honesty, several years ago when I heard that a male colleague was moving to compressed hours, I was certainly one of the people who teased him about doing so.

My lack of understanding, now improved and enhanced through my own experiences, is typical of an attitude that has run through society for years.

Why do employees want a compressed work week?

For decades, society has dictated that women should be the half of the relationship who shoulder the main responsibility for childcare.

It is only now that our evolving world is starting to accept that men can, and want, to be just as responsible.  Shared parental leave is now much more commonplace, with the women in the relationship no longer assumed to be the lowest earner in the relationship. Of course it’s not just for childcare reasons that people elect to work compressed hours.

Since 2014, all employees have had the right by law to request flexible working and it can be utilised for a number of other beneficial reasons, including;

  • Reducing commuting time
  • Allowing employees to have time in their week to care for an elderly relative or pet.

What are compressed working hours?

Compressed hours give employees the opportunity to work their contracted hours over a reduced period of time.

For example, this could mean working your full contracted hours in four days rather than five, or it could mean taking a reduced lunch break in order to finish earlier. As long as you have worked for your employer for 26 weeks, you are considered an employee and thus are entitled to make a request for flexible working, as long as you have not made any other request within the last 12 months.

An employer must look at your request fairly and make a decision within a maximum of 3 months. They can of course reject your proposal if there is a valid reason that impacts on the business.

It is important that as a family, you make the right decision about the compressed hours you want to do. You need to consider what works best practically but also financially.

For parents with childcare arrangements like me, there may be a cost to be saved by reducing the number of days that your child needs to spend with a childminder or at a nursery. With the average weekly cost of nursery currently at around £242 per week for a full time placement, any reduction in this cost could really make a difference.

Could my employer deny compressed hours?

There can be barriers preventing you from adopting compressed hours.

For example, you may be in the type of job where it just isn’t practical, maybe due to the type of work you do, or because you are part of a team shift pattern that cannot accommodate it.  Some employers may hold the view, either consciously or unconsciously, that it is not ‘the done thing’ and they might be worried about how it will affect the business.  They might even go as far as to think that you are in some way not committed to the company.  There also sometimes exists a social stigma or a lack of understanding from your fellow colleagues which can lead to you lacking the confidence to go ahead with your request.

I was fortunate to be able to work compressed hours in my previous role but when it came to considering a move to a new employer, I did feel a little trapped and felt that my options might be limited.

Working in the recruitment sector now, I have seen first-hand that some employers are still reluctant to take on employees on this basis.  There appears to be an assumption that women will need to reduce their hours, particularly around childcare and that men will not, but hopefully that attitude will only improve in time.  I consider myself very lucky to have moved to an employer who was able to allow me to retain the same working arrangement that I had before.

So given some of the barriers, it is important when requesting compressed hours with your employer that you make a business case highlighting the benefits to both employee and employer.

If you meet to discuss your request, you are entitled to take someone with you, such as a co-worker or trade union representative.

Once decided though, this is something you must do in writing and it must include the following:

  • Confirmation that you are making a ‘statutory flexible working request’;
  • The date that you’re submitting the request;
  • The change you would like to make;
  • When you would like the change to commence from;
  • Any effects the change could have on your work or business and how they might be dealt with;
  • The date of any previous flexible working request.

In addition to the above, it would be advantageous to include any benefits that the change could have, maybe to the business or your colleagues.  For example, I chose a Wednesday as my ‘day off’ because I believed it would have less impact on annual leave for my colleagues, with most people likely to take long weekends and thus needing Mondays and Fridays more regularly than Wednesdays.

I also proposed to work 4 days a week from 8.30am to 6.00pm, which at the time were the office opening hours.  As I was part of a team shift pattern, it meant that regardless of the other team members, the full shift was covered and therefore other colleagues could be more flexible in their hours.

In my current role, the office hours finish at 5pm, but because I work until 6pm, there is an extra hour at the end of the day which can be used to either my advantage or to help out a colleague who may have run out of time but need help with a task.  Benefits like this can help not only you but the people around you too.

What happens next?

When you’ve made your request in writing, the employer must write back to you and, assuming your request is granted, they must confirm the agreed working hours, pay, job location and holiday entitlement.

Ultimately, the advice I would give is to not be afraid to ask.

Compressed hours are an important option to be considered for you and your family with benefits to your financial situation, your health and your wellbeing.

Society’s attitude is gradually changing and employers are now putting much more emphasis on mindfulness and mental health, compressed hours are another way of creating a much better work life balance which can only be of benefit to both employee and employer.

At Elite Staffing Solutions we don’t just mismatch employees with employers. We focus on what matters to both parties. If you envision compressed hours, let us know. If as an employer you’re not open to compressed hours, be upfront.

There is no rhyme or reason to placing someone who needs total flexibility with a rigid company or someone who is rigid with a totally autonomous company. We do what’s best for all involved. Get in touch and let’s find your next move together.