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What does flexibility in the workplace actually mean?

Author: Rachel Wheeler
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 With so many people now having the option of ‘flexible working’ or seeking this altered working pattern when searching for a new job, I thought I would explore this modern arrangement in more detail.

According to GOV.UK, flexible working is “a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, for example having flexible start and finish times, or working from home.”

Forward Role has an incredible approach to our working patterns. We all have work laptops and mobile phones, which allow us to log on and work outside of the office.

Many of us have benefitted from the occasional visit to a local coffee shop or a We Work environment to switch off from the hub of the office and work in a little cocoon for the day. Last month I sat in the waiting area of the car garage, working away whilst my car was serviced. The coffee wasn’t great but the Wi-Fi couldn’t be faulted!

Those of us who have a heavy commute into work or a family, enjoy the flexibility to work from home at least one day a week. Several of us have altered hours to accommodate for nursery/school drop off and pick up. Has this impinged our output? No – in fact, it’s had the opposite effect. We are not deterred from logging on in the evening to send that email we didn’t have time to send before we had to rush and beat the traffic, to avoid picking up a nursery fine for lateness. Some of us have also been known to log on at weekends to finalise outstanding work. May I stress, this is not expected, in fact we are often encouraged to ‘go home’ and ‘switch off’; and as a result we are more willing to go the extra mile in response to the autonomy we are gifted.

What makes FR’s flexible working policy so successful? It’s easy – trust and respect. Brian and Steve, our Directors, respect us as individuals, they know we are hard workers and doing a good job is important to us. But we are also human, we have families, we have commitments out of work and they allow us to juggle the two wonderfully. In return, we are a happy and grateful team because we managed to make it over to Liverpool to watch a mid-week match at Anfield, or we were able to score that winning goal for our local football team in the cup final. Surely to be treated in any other way would cause a disgruntled workforce?

Similarly, we are trusted. We don’t have secret software installed on our computers to track our activity and our calls are not monitored. Our Directors trust we are working when we say we are because our success speaks for itself. Plus, we’d be caught out pretty quickly if we accidentally posted a picture on Instagram mid-week, sipping prosecco at some luxury spa!

Working in recruitment, I have exposure to hundreds of businesses and their working methods and I’m still taken aback when rigid working hours are the norm and ‘flexibility’ is considered to go hand in hand with a lack of commitment and career drive. Realistically, it demonstrates the opposite. Legally, an employee is allowed to ask for flexibility after 26 weeks of continuous employment for the same employer and refusal has to be pretty black and white and fall within one of the seven categories for denial – but yet some businesses still choose to oppose this.

I believe that the number of people working flexibly is only going to increase and for those businesses who aren’t willing to embrace this way of working, they risk excluding themselves from attracting top talent. Are you a business considering adopting a flexible working approach? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact me on rachel@forwardrole.com / 07825 589 389 to discuss how to implement flexible working successfully into your workplace.

Rachel Wheeler heads up the Product, Trading and Ecommerce team at Forward Role. She can be found tweeting @ForwardRole_RW and on LinkedIn in/rachelwheelerdigital/.

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