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CIPD Festival of Work: focusing on workplace flexibility

22 June 2023 7 min read

CIPD Festival of Work discussing flexibility

Earlier this month, the edays team attended and exhibited at the annual CIPD Festival of Work in London, where we met with a host of business leaders and HR professionals to talk about all things absence, time and leave management (you can read our full recap of the event here).

In this blog, we wanted to delve a little deeper into one of the talks we attended, which we felt covered one of the most significant topics that’s dominating the HR landscape right now: workplace flexibility.

Delivered by Claire McCartney, Senior Policy Advisor at CIPD and Kevin Lyons, Senior HR Manager at Pearson, Flexible working for non-office based workers: what’s possible? discussed some of the challenges and practical solutions available to organisations that have non-office employees in industries such as manufacturing, retail and construction.

The talk led into a wider discussion around flexibility for employees across all industries, including workers’ increasing desire for more fluid and open ways of working.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

Greater workplace flexibility for non-office employees is possible, and here’s how

The discussion presented a selection of options for employers looking to provide greater flexibility for their non-office employees, as well as detailing some successful case studies. Here’s a few:

Team-managed flexible working schedules – each week one member of a project team takes ownership of everyone’s schedules and rotas, and each person can select one morning where they start late or one afternoon where they can leave early. Depending on factors such as the size of your teams, minimum staffing requirements and working hours, this initiative can be tweaked accordingly to benefit employees fairly and still meet operational needs of an organisation.

Flexibility in hours worked – an organisation may choose to allow workers to fulfil any weekly hours during the weekend, work overtime which can then be taken off in lieu, or request night shift work. Providing staff members with more choice when it comes to completing their shifts will have a big impact on flexibility, if you’re also able to manage resources to cope with the introduction of new working patterns.

Split shifts and job shares in customer-facing roles – some organisations can opt to look at split shifts and job sharing roles to allow for greater flexibility and variety in work. Retail organisations may even consider extending their opening hours to allow for more shifts to be worked, creating a benefit for both the employees and the business.

Flexible fortnight pilot – an initiative that gives employees the choice of four options: non-standard start and end times; working from home; reduced working hours; and working from another location once per fortnight. Any employees who wish to introduce these options into their schedule can make a request ahead of time and adjust their working patterns accordingly.

Greater notice and control over shifts – simply by giving employees as much notice as possible as to what their upcoming shifts will be, and avoiding last minute changes where possible, organisations are able to provide better flexibility and clarity for all. And, enabling workers to swap swifts easily amongst their own teams, without supervisor approval, helps to empower individuals in choosing when they are able to work.

When it comes to providing flexibility, small changes make a big difference

A key theme from the discussion was that, of course, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution to providing enhanced flexibility for non-office workers. And indeed, for all employees across all sectors and industries. However, small changes in attitudes, line management, and general workplace culture can go a long way in making employees feel understood, supported and encouraged in their roles.

Changes might look like:


  • Understanding that people have commitments outside of work, and trying to make reasonable adjustments and allowances where possible. Whether it’s childcare, medical appointments, moving house or unexpected personal events in life, employers who are able to show understanding and compassion when an employee can’t attend work for a few hours are much more likely to retain that employee in the long-run.
  • Empowering line managers and team leaders to offer support and make decisions. Giving line managers more authority when it comes to approving annual leave, recording absences, allowing early finishes or approving weekly working schedules without sign-off from a senior leadership team member, ensures that team relationships can grow and allows for more flexibility. Likewise, encouraging regular check-ins and one-to-one conversations between managers and employees to assess their performance, set goals, and discuss their wellbeing goes a long way in boosting employee engagement and reducing the risk of burnout and absenteeism.
  • Allowing employees to play to their strengths. This is where an initiative like job sharing works well, if people are able to work in the areas of a business that they most enjoy or excel at. Of course, job roles can be varied anyway and we all have parts of our job that we might find tedious or uninspiring, but if someone is willing and able to take part in a particular project or area of work that they might not normally have the opportunity to, helps both the organisation and its employees. Upskilling, support from peers and managers, and recognition for a job well done all help to foster a rewarding and productive career, as well as boost employee engagement and reduce the risk of turnover.

Are we heading towards ‘unbound flexibility’?

The issue of workplace flexibility remains at the forefront of the conversation, as it has ever since the COVID-19 pandemic. Organisations globally are wrangling with return-to-office mandates and incentives to bring workers back into the office, which many feel are failing or are missing the point.

So if flexible working is here to stay, where does it go from here?

This idea of ‘unbound flexibility’, as discussed at CIPD, suggests that it isn’t going away anytime soon, and in fact workers’ demands for more flexibility, across all sectors, may actually increase.

In one of our latest eBooks, we explored 7 initiatives to promote employee work-life balance. From the 4-day week to unlimited annual leave and much more in between, there are many ways in which organisations can provide greater workplace flexibility for office and non-office based staff, work in an agile way, and reap the benefits of increased productivity and reduction in employee turnover as a result.

Improve workplace flexibility with edays

When discussing issues such as flexibility, engagement and employee experience, having a good grasp on your organisation’s absence rate, leave management and working hours is key.

With one configurable system, edays enables managers to record all instances of sickness absence, approve leave requests, and resource plan more efficiently. No more spreadsheets and a disjointed approach to knowing exactly who is off, who is working, who might need a little extra support, and who has or hasn’t taken a break in a while.

Create custom leave types, triggers, alerts, in-depth reports and record overtime, TOIL and more. And, allow employees to log their hours worked with our Time Submission module.

Gain complete visibility over how absence and leave are impacting your organisation – on an individual, team, department or company-wide level, and take proactive steps to address any issues before they become detrimental to your operations and productivity.

Want to find out more? Book a free personalised demo of edays

Georgina at edays
June 22, 2023

Georgina Mackintosh is an accomplished copywriter and marketing professional with a background that spans several industries. Her writing focuses on HR topics such as employee wellbeing, engagement and experience - as well as absence management best practice, how-to guides and news from the HR sector.