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Can Flexible Working Really Work?

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By Jane Wilson Alpaca

Can flexible working really work?

In our May blog we wrote about the benefits to flexible working and how it can lead to improvements in employee engagement and productivity. In support of both MMB Magazine and flexible working in general, Alpaca attended the Yorkshire Flex conference a  few weeks ago which focused on flexible working in 2017 and beyond. The impressive panel of speakers held positions ranging from HR Director For Eversheds Sutherland, Head of Organisational Development Yorkshire Bank, Peoples Operations Director Talk Talk,  Deputy Chief Officer HR at Leeds City Council to name a few. Plus the audience included HR managers through to business owners and it was a fascinating and engaging event.

The panel discussed both the ups and downs of flexible working in their experiences, as well as being open and honest about things they have done right and things they could have done better. It was often the mistakes made by others which led to the best learning points

One of the main bottlenecks identified was a lack of manager engagement and confidence in discussing flexible working. It’s all very well business owners and HR buying into the practice but it’s those actually managing employees who need to be engaged. For example, an issue arose around the perception that it was harder to manage employees who work more flexibly because of lack of presence in the work environment – the classic presence equals performance assumption. Providing managers with tips and guidance about managing flexible workers as well as dispelling myths about productivity of those not in the office was key.

It also came out that a common first response to a suggestion of flexible working is to say no, even though an increasing number of people recognise it can work well for both parties.  The consensus was that with a bit of goodwill on both sides a compromise can usually be reached. One concern for employees was feeling like they were always on call and that they couldn’t switch off at the end of the working day if they work from home on a regular basis without being submerged in the standard 9-5 office hours. A solution to this was having a work phone and a home phone and just being strict with yourself!

Wellness in the workplace is a hot topic at the moment, with good employers striving to compete on this front to draw in and retain top quality staff. It’s well established that good employment practices, of which flexible working is one of many, have a direct impact on general wellness in the workplace. An example was given at the conference of an employee who was allowed an extra 15 minutes to take over their lunch break to allow them to get home and walk their dog. This then led to the business introducing a ‘bring your dog to work day’ which went down fantastically with staff. A small gesture that cost very little obviously meant a great deal and was genuinely appreciated by the individual. This just goes to show, sometimes it’s the little things that count.

It was great to hear a lot of talk about returning mums and the general consensus that they have a lot to offer. This links in to our June blog about finding out you’re pregnant so we hope all you expectant mums out there take this as a confidence boost – employers are keen to re-engage returning mums and they recognise the need to be flexible in order to help make it happen.

In modern times with the technology available, the image of a traditional workplace is changing and it’s time for employers to embrace it and reap the rewards of an engaged, happy and ultimately more productive workforce.

Click here to read our May post here on what is flexible working? 

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