Flexible working from day one – what it means for SMEs

By Sue Tumelty on Small Business - Advice and Ideas for UK Small Businesses and SMEs The Government is pressing ahead with a consultation to give everyone the right to request flexible working from the first day in a job The post Flexible working from day one – what it means for SMEs appeared first on Small Business.

Flexible working from day one – what it means for SMEs

By Sue Tumelty on Small Business - Advice and Ideas for UK Small Businesses and SMEs

This week the Government puts out proposals to consultation for laws which could see employees have the legal right to submit flexible working requests (FWRs) from the first day on a new job.

This is a significant reduction from the six months limit currently in legislation and would be matched, under the proposals, by a shortened requisite response time on the part of employers.

As a company which supports more than 6,500 SMEs around the UK, we broadly welcome proposals to speed up the process. Aside from giving employees a better work life balance, there are clear benefits to employers of offering more flexibility, including improved ability to recruit and retain staff across the age spectrum.

‘New laws can have unforeseen consequences … it is usually smaller businesses which feel those the most’

However, there are always knock-on effects of new legislation and it is usually smaller businesses which feel those the most.

The consultation is part of the Government’s Good Work Plan programme, under which The HR Dept has represented the views of UK SMEs since it was set up in 2018.

>See also: Is flexible working more valuable to employees than a pay rise?

We are pleased that the Government is putting this out to consultation and The HR Dept will certainly have its say on the likely impact on SMEs nationwide.

Our prime concern is to urge the Government to thoroughly consider the implications for SME businesses, which employ 60 per cent of the UK’s private sector staff.

As mentioned, new laws can have unforeseen consequences so these need proper thought before the legislation is brought into effect.

Significant costs

For example, there are costs to consider when offering employees greater flexibility. When the home becomes the workplace there are health and safety implications, furniture, technological requirements, internet security issues and additional training needs.

It should also be emphasised that flexible working is much more than home working and that it applies to male and female employees. For example it might involve compacted hours such as a four day working week, to potential job sharing, annualised hours and phased retirement. Each of these has repercussions to consider.

>See also: Flexible working not being offered by employers

There are likely to be impacts on required office space, something which may have a significant impact on margins and therefore needs considerable thought.

What about employee motivation? Will your current workforce resent opportunities given to new employees which they did not themselves enjoy? There may be issues over team morale to consider, in turn potentially impacting retention and productivity.

Flexible working from day one

And indeed, with all staff being offered flexible working from day one, is there likely to be an impact on creating those valuable relationships which can greatly support team performance?

At an incredibly challenging time for small businesses in particular, with many struggling to stay afloat, changes need to be properly thought through before implementation in law.

Can you refuse a flexible working request?

Currently, the rules allow for rejection of a flexible working application based on costs, administrative concerns, productivity or recruitment issues. Under the proposals, employers will still be able to refuse the request but their refusal must be reasonable. As ever, someone needs to decide the definition of reasonable.

What is vital is that employers are given authority to do what is best for the business – weighing up issues over recruitment and retention against concerns on productivity and profit.

What are flexible working patterns?

It is important to recognise the variety of flexible working patterns available. Hybrid working – a mixture of office and home-based working – is becoming more common but flexibility doesn’t just mean where you work. It includes giving the employee more say over which hours they work, supporting parents with nursery and school collection times, allowing flexibility for carers, avoiding rush hour traffic, giving breaks when required, potential job sharing, and so on.

Juggling employee requests

These ideas were first mooted in the 1980s. It could well be that now is the time to redesign these concepts for the 2020s with SMEs at the forefront. However the practical considerations, of juggling employee requests with the challenges of running a business, also need to be thought through.

We also believe changes are also needed in recruitment procedures, alongside investment in better technology and processes within individual businesses, to make the most of any new regulations.

If you look at online recruitment platforms, the default is always to offer binary choice of full or part-time working, never flexible employment. That needs to change. Employees will certainly be looking for flexibility, so it’s in everyone’s interests to make the offering apparent from the earliest stage of the process.

We would like to see policy makers recognising that SME owners need support to help them transition from the pre to post-pandemic employment environment. We’ll be doing our best to +make these concerns known.

Sue Tumelty is the founder of The HR Dept

Further reading

How do I respond to a flexible working request?

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The truth behind first impressions

  Contact lens retailer Lenstore has surveyed 1,000 people in the UK to find out what they really think when meeting someone for the first time. Read more: The truth behind first impressions

The truth behind first impressions

What makes a good first impression? Is it all about image? Can you bounce back from an embarrassing initial encounter? Lenstore reveals a new survey on the physical characteristics we find most attractive.

 We’ve always been quick to judge. As a society we tend to ‘shoot from the hip’ when it comes to making judgements on people we’ve just met. Though we like to think we’re open to making new friends and ‘being a good person’, we make snap judgements on people based on a key number of factors such as facial shape, vocal inflection, psychical appeal, and general emotional state. Once we’ve made this decision, we find it hard to change our first impression, even when presented with evidence that massively contradicts it.

A new study reveals almost half (46%) of people in the UK judge someone based on their appearance. The survey also reveals the physical characteristics we find most attractive in people.

  • 46% of Brits judge someone based on their appearance, however over half of people feel self-conscious of this when meeting someone for the first time
  • Over 1 in 3 Brits admit to judging someone negatively if they have tattoos
  • 3 in 5 people in the UK agree that first impressions matter, with almost half saying their first perceptions are usually right
  • Over 30% of Brits say social media affects their opinion of someone

It takes just a matter of seconds for someone to evaluate you when you meet them for the first time. But just how important are first impressions to us, and how do physical appearances have an impact on our opinion of someone’s character?

Lenstore has surveyed 1,000 people to find out the most important factors we consider when meeting someone for the first time and how this affects our perception of them. You can view the full story here.

Appearance and hygiene remain the top factors we notice first when meeting someone for the first time

Respondents answered what the most important factors were in different environments, including a scenario in the workplace, a social setting, and a romantic setting.

Work environment Social Romantic
Appearance (25%) Appearance (24%) Appearance (32%)
Hygiene/Odour (23%) Hygiene/Odour (22%) Hygiene/Odour (28%)
Job Title (17%) Voice/Accent & Clothing/Style (17%) Age (25%)

How do men and women compare when it comes to first impressions?

Whilst men and women both think appearance is the most important factor when meeting someone for the first time, particularly in a romantic setting where this bumps up from a quarter (24%) to 1 in 3 (32%), there are some differences in the characteristics they value most.

At work, women are far more likely to judge someone based on their clothes at 18% versus men at just 11%.

When it comes to meeting someone romantically, age almost doubles as an important factor for both genders, going from around 15% to a staggering 28%. Interestingly it remains a larger factor for women than men (31% vs 25%).

Physical appearances such as eye and hair colour are more important to men with 17 in 100 men valuing eye colour and nearly 1 in 5 men valuing hair colour.  Height is considered more by women than men at 21% as well compared to 17% of men.

Social media, the car or vehicle a person drives, their job title and financial position all rank as some of the least important factors for both men and women when meeting someone romantically.

What attributes do we find more attractive than others?

Whilst everyone’s tastes are slightly different, the results show some clear patterns in what we find the most attractive.

More attractive Less attractive
Clean-shaven (13%) Facial hair (6%)
Makes eye contact (21%) Avoids eye contact (4%)
Smart clothes (19%) Casual clothes (9%)
Good posture (22%) Poor posture (4%)
The smell of perfume/aftershave (17%) Bad odour (4%)
Smiles a lot (27%) Doesn’t smile (4%)

Being clean-shaven, wearing smart clothes and having good posture all contribute to making someone more attractive. Whilst facial hair, avoiding eye contact and wearing casual clothes are considered less attractive attributes.

Just 6% of respondents found piercings and tattoos as attractive qualities, whilst heavy make-up, and an overly dominant handshake ranked as some of the lowest factors.

Eye contact is the biggest indicator of confidence, intelligence, and trustworthiness, whilst tattoos are the biggest sign of creativity

The study also looks at our personality assumptions based on physical characteristics and behaviours, producing some interesting results.


The top three factors that we assume makes someone intelligent are:

  1. Eye contact (15%)
  2. Smart clothes (14%)
  3. Good posture (13%)

With eye contact ranking top for indicating intelligence, it’s interesting to see one in six people (14%) also see smart clothes as an indicator of intelligence, as well as good posture.

In addition, over 1 in 10 people perceive people with glasses to be more intelligent, whilst plastic surgery, wearing coloured contact lenses, piercings, bad odour and heavy make-up are considered the least contributing factors to intelligence.


The top three factors that we assume makes someone trustworthy are:

  1. Eye contact (20%)
  2. Smiles a lot (15%)
  3. Good posture (14%)

1 in 5 people perceives eye contact as a key indicator of trustworthiness, with women valuing this more. Along with smiling and good posture, 1 in 10 find that smart clothes and being clean-shaven also indicate a trustworthy personality.


The top three factors that we assume makes someone creative are:

  1. Tattoos (12%)
  2. Casual clothes (12%)
  3. Smiles a lot (11%)

Interestingly 1 in 12 people find glasses-wearers as creative, whilst piercings also make some of the top features of a creative person.


The top three factors that we assume makes someone confident are:

  1. Eye contact (27%)
  2. Good posture (26%)
  3. Smiles a lot (23%)

Just under 1 in 3 people see eye contact as an indicator of confidence and the biggest sign of this trait. 1 in 10 people find people that are clean-shaven and the smell of perfume or aftershave as a sign of confidence, whilst the lowest contributing factors are being overweight (3%) and having bad odour (3%).

When it comes to being shy, more than 1 in 3 people see lack of eye contact as the biggest indicator of this, followed by someone that doesn’t smile and has a loose handshake.

, mystic and body language expert discusses the power of eye contact

“First impressions matter everywhere – in the boardroom, in the bedroom and in casual social interactions, and the signs you give out, and the signs you pick up on, are often all in the eyes.

When someone looks you straight in the eye, they project confidence, reliability, and the fact that they probably like you!

Better yet, if the person in front of you has a smile in their eyes, that character comes across as genuine and likeable.

(It’s worth practising this one in the mirror since you rarely get a second chance to make a first impression.)

Shy people often stare downwards, glancing up here and there, but not committing to full eye contact. That tendency can be attractive to many – and can also show a person who wears their vulnerability on their sleeve, aware of their shyness but not apologizing for it, which is very genuine. It’s a quietly intelligent way of dealing with the world.

The gold standard, most attractive pattern, which shows emotional intelligence and honesty, are those who mix it all up – smiling eyes, lots of eye contact, a bit of staring down if discussing difficult issues, lots of upward eye flicks to focus and keep the conversation going.”

Whilst everyone is different, it’s clear to see those first impressions really do matter.


Using Censuswide, Lenstore surveyed 1,000 Brits in July 2021 to find out their opinions were about first impressions.

About Lenstore:

Lenstore has been changing the way consumers buy contact lenses since 2008 by making contact lenses fast, faff-free, and affordable.

We offer the big brand lenses our customers want, at small prices, delivered to their door. But our service doesn’t end here, our team of opticians and eye care experts are on hand to help you get the most out of your vision. Whether that’s help finding the right lenses, how to practice proper lens hygiene or even tips for how to manage hay fever. And we provide all our customers with free eye tests and contact lens checks.

Lenstore is here to help you manage your eye health in a way that suits you.





Read more:
The truth behind first impressions

Source : Business Matters More   

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