5 Tips for Flexible Working that works!

I know what you’re thinking, flexible working is nothing new, so why are we blogging about it? While it might not be a new concept, and your organisation may already be openly promoting flexible working, there’s still a stigma around it. A recent article by Lottie O’Connor in the Guardian sheds some light:

‘Equality and creativity are being stifled by an outdated, unnecessary set of rules where stress and sleepless nights are the expected payoff for success’

While the law may have changed last year, giving employees throughout the UK the right to request flexible working arrangements, there still seem to be a few hurdles to overcome. As O’Conor implies above, presenteeism is becoming a big problem, the notion that being at work over hours required/when ill etc, to try and demonstrate one’s dedication and effort will pay off when it comes to success. However, herein lies one of the problems with getting flexible working off the ground.

O’Conor continues:
“…every time I speak to anyone about the flexible options available to them, the same concerns seem to come up again and again. “In my company, working from home is seen as slacking” is the most common response. “If you’re working towards a promotion, you would never ask for flexible hours” is another.”

Surely working under these attitudes is not doing any one any good? At CIPD 15 conference in Manchester, Professor Sir Cary Cooper advised:

“Employees who turn up to work ill or disengaged cost businesses twice as much in lost productivity than employees who are absent.”

Cooper then quoted a 2015 study by Chartered Management Institute, which showed that nearly three quarters of employees work more than 40 hours a week – with over ten per cent working 60 hours or more.
“There isn’t a study in the world that proves working longer hours makes you more productive. But there are studies that show longer hours will damage your health,” Cooper states.

He then went on to highlight a further problem: ‘Leavism.’ This is where employees are taking time off and using it to catch up on work they haven’t been able to get done during work hours – an issue that he says is particularly common in the public sector.

But there are companies who are getting it right, and are seeing the benefits. Glassdoor’s ‘Highest Rated Companies For Work/Life Balance’ identifies the top 20 companies in this category, with feedback provided by UK-based employees. In many, if not all, flexible hours were common, working from home is a key element of a good balance, as well as reasonable working days and not having to stay late.

For example, a Software Developer at one of these companies, FinancialForce.com says “…the company is flexible on working hours, which makes it far easier to manage things like personal appointments, or having workmen visit your house etc.” It’s clear that having a job that respects people to manage their own time appropriately while still working hard is highly prized by employees.

Employees are supported and empowered in working in a way that works for them.
Working flexibly doesn’t mean working less, procrastination happens plenty in the office. Work shouldn’t be about the amount of hours you clock up, it should come down to quality versus quantity. Let’s champion good working, not over working.
The best place to start in making a cultural change for flexible working could be our leaders. O’Conor says:

Business leaders need to actively encourage staff to step back from the traditional working patterns that have dominated our lives for so long. They need to not only lead by example, but also reward those who have delivered results through different ways of working.

Flexible Working

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We’ve got 5 Tips here to help your organization get on board with flexible working:

1) One size does not fit all
Everyone has different needs when it comes to flexible working – think about different flexible working patterns, such as flexi-time, remote working, job sharing, self-rostered shifts. The important part of the process is to ensure that any flexible working practices work for your employees, your customers and your organisation.

2) Know the benefits
If you need some evidence for higher-ups, some simple and effective stats:
70% of British office workers feel more productive working away from the office, 38% say they are more creative out of the office, and 90% say flexible working doesn’t impact their ability to collaborate with colleagues.

(source: The Guardian)

3) Work is an activity – not a location
Flexible working is about being mindful about the work you have to do at that moment in time (be it the next task or the things you need to get done today) and choosing the most appropriate location for that work.

4) Get the balance right
It’s proven that a harmonious work/life balance directly contributes to productivity & happiness at work. Putting it simply, having flexibility in your working hours could help your employees juggle things a little more easily – making their home life and working life better.

5) Don’t judge others
There isn’t a one size fits all option when it comes to flexible working, and the chances are that most people work on entirely different schedules to suit individual and organisational needs. In order for flexible working to be successful, colleagues must avoid making judgments about each other’s working patterns.

We hope these tips will help you lead the way with your employees, and show other organisations how to get flexible working right!

Want to know more about flexible working and what the law says? Click here to read our blog about the 4 Myths of flexible working, and what the CIPD have to say.

If you would like to know how People Lab can help your employee engagement, request a call-back from our expert Emma Bridger. We’ve worked with hundreds of clients and have 18 years experience.

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