Flexible working is still very much a taboo topic within many organisations, often seen as one of those things that mothers request when they have kids, to be met with a sigh. Ten years ago it would have been me secretly tutting at anyone who dared to suggest they might want more options in the way they work.
Thankfully my perspective has taken a U-turn. I no longer view flexibility as a bad thing thanks to more modern ways of working coming into play, expectations changing in younger working generations, and of course becoming a mum myself, while running a business I now see flexible working as a fundamental discussion every organisation must have with their people – a key driver of engagement and, ultimately, an enabler of brilliance at work.
Adopting a flexible mindset is worth its weight in gold
Don’t just take my word on it – there is a whole host of research, including our old favourites Daniel Pink ‘Drive’, Cal Newport ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’ and Tony Hsieh ‘Delivering Happiness’ – which show that freedom is a key driver of work fulfilment and quality output.
A Reciprocity Theory (Schmidt 2006): If you give people freedom to be flexible they will offer it in return and they are likely to go above and beyond for your business when you need it most. They are also the people who will feel refreshed and ready to take on daily challenges with resilience rather than burning out.
Talent Magnet: Many businesses are losing out on some of the best talent simply because they struggle to break away from the 9-5/5 day a week norm. Outstanding people are leaving great organisations because they don’t offer them the flexibility they crave or need. Adapting can act as a differentiator for your business, making you a magnet for people who are willing to offer more of themselves in return.
Future Proofing: Millennial’s expectations are changing the make up of the workplace due to their expectations of freedom and flexibility. They are the first generation where boundaries are ceasing to exist; work and life go hand in hand; life is for living, and so carefully crafting their time spent is key. If we are to attract and retain this generation of talent, the future of organisations, we need to embrace this philosophy.
Fear & lack of trust are stopping companies adopting a more flexible mindset
Managers find comfort in being able to see everyone, thinking they can keep tabs on them doing a good job. The reality is, when we trust people, we not only empower them to do their best, but their time for work and the quality of output stretches way beyond a 9-5, where clock watching and ‘weekend countdowns’ preside. As Talent and Engagement specialist Tom Crawford said recently – ‘why is it ok for a person to work on their sofa at 11pm at night but not 1pm. Where is the trust and leadership in that? It’s lazy management’. Hear, hear.
Who decided that a 9-5 office culture is conducive to brilliant work anyway?
Interestingly most organisations we work with cite lack of time and too many meetings as the main reason they don’t have chance to stop and think of new ideas to make their businesses better. So much time is wasted on commuting, and packing meetings into a day that the ‘real’ value adding work is crowbarred in. I can’t help but wonder what a different place the economy would be if we cut out these regimes in favour of time to think and do?
Making flexible working happen
Since founding FizzPopBANG, we have met many organisations struggling to offer more. Here are our top tips for making it work…
- Get rid of your flexible working policy
Many organisations fear life without policies, believing people will abuse the situation. The reality is, the majority won’t. Look at Netflix or Virgin who offer unlimited holiday – people take less now than they ever have! For the handful (if any) that take liberties, then its time to have an adult conversation with them and explain why it’s not acceptable. Simple.
- Include everyone in the flexibility agenda
It’s not just parents who want flexibility, everyone in your organisation can benefit. For example, some of the most creative ideas happen outside of the office. Be brave and open it up to everyone – it doesn’t mean you need to say yes to everything but you might be surprised how a little flexibility goes a long way!
- Encourage teams to have honest conversations around their non-negotiables
Ask people what is most important to them to achieve the balance they need to perform at their best. It might be a weekly lunchtime spin session, being home to put the children to bed, having a day to work from home to catch up and concentrate – whatever it is, it will inevitably vary from person to person. BUPA encourage discussions to incorporate their personal non-negotiables into their team ways of working and they commit to supporting each other to achieve them. Each week, team members report back and if they aren’t sticking to them, then they’re challenged why and what support they need to achieve them the following week.
- Use flexibility to your advantage
Structure your team around people working at different times and make it your competitive advantage.
- Be pirates
Don’t feel like your team need to be tied to an office to be productive. The rise of flexible working environments away from the traditional office set up, coupled with advancements in technology are testament to this revolution and are making ‘work’ and ‘work time’ very different concepts. There are a growing number of organisations (particular those in Technology such as Wordpress) who are building teams without an office – allowing them to work from home, their local coffee shop, art gallery or more formal group working spaces that offer all the facilities and a collaborative environment. This allows people to choose an environment that best suits the type of work they are completing and be inspired by their surroundings. Even traditional businesses such as MS Saatchi are starting to offer ‘free range working’— using it to their advantage to recruit the best talent wherever they live.
- Trust your team
Motivate people around their deliverables and not their time. This is something most organisations difficult, hence they fall back on the old school clocking in and out culture. Of course, having people together in the same space still has it’s value – so allocate time to get together to share ideas, then leave the rest of the time for everyone to use as they see fit to deliver their objectives. They might just surprise you with their results!