Flexible Working: it’s not a perk.


A few years ago, I was offered a job working for an organisation that supported flexible working. On accepting the offer, my manager and I agreed that on a Monday and Friday I could work from home (wfh) with flexibility around my working day, as long as my client group weren’t impacted, so that I could take my children to their after-school activities on these days.

After 6 months or so, my manager had moved on and their manager was now my manager. When we discussed the agreement about my working patterns this more senior manager chuckled and said, ‘in 5 years’ time I am sure we will look back on this conversation and laugh. But there is no way you can work like that [flexibly]; the business just isn’t ready for that kind of working.’ Despite my client group always being able to contact me and me never missing a deadline or letting anyone in the business down, there was no budging on where and when I performed my job.

I am sure I am one example of countless others who, over the years, have demonstrated that it doesn’t matter where or when you work, it’s about the outcomes you deliver and the value you add – and, that with flexibility there is an expectation that you too will flex.

So, what does flexibility mean?

Flexible working might include reduced hours (part-time hours), compressed hours (fitting a full-time job into less days), working remotely – from home, from the gym, from a café, out on a walk, working outside of normal working hours, working across more days / nights, specific finishing times, summer hours, alternate working hours over a fortnight, monthly hours, term time hours – the list goes on. The point is, flexible working is different for different people. Obviously, there are some tasks that require a lot more privacy or security than others so there will need to be some boundaries in place.

Flexible working is not a perk

There has been a flurry of recruitment posts recently which advertise flexible working as a company benefit:

‘Flexible working approach, with a balance of being in the office and working from home’

‘Remote working – more of us are currently working remotely than usual, but longer-term you can balance working remotely with working in the office, giving you the opportunity to connect with colleagues’

Seriously? Flexible working is not a perk, it is something that should be standard. It doesn’t only benefit the employee but also the business. Recruitment group, Robert Half, suggest there are 5 benefits of offering flexible working:

  1. Increased productivity
  2. Reduces stress and burnout
  3. Promotes a healthy work-life balance
  4. Improved job satisfaction
  5. Attraction of top talent

I would certainly add another, ‘Values Employees’. Ultimately, we spend more awake hours working than doing anything else. As humans, our intrinsic motivation comes from a sense of value. When we feel valued, we are motivated to do a good job, remain loyal and to offer more discretionary effort.

Timewise ‘2021 Flexible Jobs Index’ found that only 1 in 4 jobs are advertised as being flexible in some way. In other words, 75% of jobs advertised are not obtainable for those who aren’t able to work full-time hours / 5 days per week. There is obviously so much more we need to do to make flexible working the norm.

Let’s get flexible, flexible…

If you’re a business leader just new to this whole flexible working or want to move beyond just a ‘hybrid’ approach as a means to be flexible, why not start just by experimenting with some options that might work. Give it a few months and see what else you could do to improve flexibility in your workplace.

Firstly, what flexibility is for me could be completely different for what it is for you. Advice… Ask your employees and your team what flexibility means for them.

Second, why not start with what needs to be delivered. What is it that your team needs to achieve? From there, think about the best ways to achieve this. It might be an administrative struggle for a while but longer term, this is a great way to be truly flexible. Some weeks might be more meeting heavy, they might be more project focused or they might require a lot of deep thought. Identify how flexible you can be as a team to enable everyone the ability to work flexibly.

If you’re about to start a new job, be sure to agree during your offer stage what flexibility means for you. This is the perfect opportunity to be clear about your non-negotiables or things that will give you the best chance at success in your new role.

What else would you include in your flexible working list?

For more information on how to improve flexibility in your organisation, get in touch, bernadette@rosbyconsulting.com

At Rosby, we’re on a mission to improve the experience of work for everyone. In doing so, we believe that people and businesses will thrive – creating happy, healthier workplaces.

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