How to design a flexible job

Flexible jobs are becoming more commonplace, and the best employees are demanding more flexibility. So how do you design a flexible job?

Man working flexibly from home


Now is the time for employers to make flexible jobs the norm. But how do you design a flexible job and ensure it works for both organisation and employee?

If anything positive came out of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was the change in attitudes towards flexible working.

Most employers learned that remote working is fully viable and that there is no need for teams to be present in the office five days a week. In fact, companies like Unilever have now pledged that their staff will never return to a full five days in the office.

Even the insurance sector, generally thought to be fairly traditional in their methods, have signed up to a new flexible working plan. Now is the time to make flexible online jobs the norm, but how?

The flexible working challenge

Employees want them, recruiters request them, candidates are seeking them… so what’s the barrier to designing flexible jobs?

It seems that a frequent obstacle is the line manager. The pressure to meet their targets, deliver to customer demands and to design an effective way of working often puts managers under stress. And yet the pressure to agree to requests can end up with flexible working patterns that neither work for the business nor the individual in the long term.

The key then is to help managers understand and enable specific job design to meet all parties’ needs.

Designing a flexible job

Having a clear understanding of what will work for a role, the team, the business and what will not, can empower managers to be more open to flexible working patterns and think more creatively about how work gets done.

Fundamentally, it is the nature of the role and the operating model for the team that will determine what flexible working arrangements will work for specific roles and role families.

Bear in mind that there are many different aspects of flexibility. Many people are looking for part time jobs with flexible hours, while others are seeking full time ‘work from home’ jobs with flexible hours. Then there is the option of hybrid working that is becoming more of a prospect as we come out of the pandemic lockdowns.

Steps to consider

In designing a flexible job, the following steps may be helpful:

  • Identify the main purpose of the job. List the key tasks and responsibilities and make sure they match the job description.
  • Specify how you measure success in this job. What does ‘good’ look like?
  • Consider the main tasks and required outputs. Are they being done in the most efficient way? Is it realistic to expect one person to deliver all these tasks? Could they be split among several people or better served in a different way?
  • Map out the stakeholders for the role and their needs/expectations. List customers/colleagues/partners etc.
  • Be clear about the skills and experience needed.
  • Explore potential flexibility – what options would work? Are there any that wouldn’t?
  • Adaptation assessment. Are there any changes or training needs to make the role work on a flexible basis?
  • State that you’re happy to discuss flexible working with candidates for the role.

A key element in designing the best flexible jobs is to keep things flexible! Don’t create rigid rules around hours, work locations and the full role scope unless it is critical to the job design. Aim to work with your chosen candidate to tailor the job to them, and equally, agree to review how things are going on a regular basis.

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