Published: 30/09/2004, Volume II4, No. 5925 Page 49

Check this list before deciding if flexible working is right for your organisation, says Ruth Spellman

As employees face increasing tension between work and home lives, organisations of all types and sizes are examining the benefits that more flexible working practices might deliver in areas such as recruitment, retention, motivation and employee productivity.But the range of options can be confusing.Here are some steps to help you assess the idea.

Consider whether there is a need

First, flexible working is not for everyone. It may be that varying current working patterns will do little to aid progress towards your organisation's goals, or that There is little appetite for change among your current and prospective workforce. If There is no clear opportunity, It is probably the wrong opportunity.

Choose what's right for you

There is a range of different initiatives, from job-sharing to shift swapping, annualised hours to part-time working, but what works for one organisation may not work for another.Examine your workforce profile, or the type of recruits you are looking to attract, and assess the opportunities most likely to appeal to them.

Communicate a compelling case to management

Initiatives inevitably fail if senior managers do not back them.Prepare the 'business case' for change and communicate it well.Paint a vision of what your ideas will help the organisation to achieve.Help senior managers understand what they will need to do, and be on hand to answer their queries.

Be prepared to pilot

Accept that you will not get everything right first time.Be prepared to test, review and adjust your ideas.Pilot practices with identified groups if appropriate.

Give guidance on the practicalities

Some of the problems that arise with flexible working systems occur because they have been inconsistently applied.Communicate well in advance and give managers a chance to raise issues.

Keep an eye on the future

Keep evaluating your practices with current and prospective workforce needs to assess whether the techniques you have in place are serving the organisation's needs. It will help you identify new opportunities and manage any emerging issues.

Ruth Spellman is chief executive of Investors in People (UK).