Do you ever daydream about the benefits of flexible working? I certainly did and often. With previous employers, I was too scared to formally apply for a flexible hours contract, as it was not the done thing in the corporate culture I found myself in and I learnt from former colleagues the only way to achieve flexible work hours was to go it alone and become self-employed. I wanted to pursue postgraduate study and volunteering to nourish my soon-to-be burnt out spirit and going freelance seemed like my only option. Before taking my role at We Are All Connected, I had been actively looking for professional part-time roles for some time and often faced a “computer says no” response from recruiters and hiring managers alike, learning that flexible contracts were like trying to find hen’s teeth.
What is flexible working?
Flexible work policies vary across organisations from full-time, part-time and career flexibility arrangements with a whole range of options. We adopt a flexitime approach which works for us all but may not work for every employee’s needs. And yet if professional part-time contracts were more popular, people may discover a value in freeing up more time to focus on personal pursuits like volunteering or starting their own business. Businesses could benefit from a more cost-efficient resourcing model by hiring good people, highly qualified and motivated professionals, who desire flexible work.
Who are the professional part-timers?
I’m part of a new generation of professionals seeking part-time work and speaking with Emma Cleary, Director of Ten2Two Sussex, most employees looking for part-time hours or work from home jobs are still mostly parents or primary caregivers. The Ten2Two team has helped to fill three out of seven roles at We Are All Connected and Emma shared her own experience of not being able to find suitable professional part-time roles locally, which led her to eventually open up the Sussex office; “I think the most frustrating aspect about the lack of flexible roles is that employers are really missing out on the wealth of talent that they could harness to grow their businesses. At Ten2Two we hear so often about the brain drain and the talent gap – to the tune of over £170 billion lost to the economy, and all it takes is for employers to look at working hours in a less traditional fashion, short days, working from home and holiday flexi-time – just as WAAC has! The payback is huge – loyal, happy staff dedicated to their work with a better work/life balance.”
Before the government changed legislation in 2014, only carers or people looking after children were eligible to apply for flexible work contracts. Now all employees in the UK have the right to apply after twenty six weeks of employment. But how well is this known? I asked friends in full-time employment if they knew they were eligible to apply for a flexible working request and many were unaware, with a few male friends assuming only women are allowed to if they have children. Obviously, my ‘pub study’ does not account for the views of many but it did help to reinforce my experience that employers do not necessarily shout from the rooftops about flexible work options and the BBC reports that fathers are afraid to ask for flexible working based on a fear of damaging their career. Employers must deal with requests ‘in a reasonable manner’ and can only turn down applications if there is a good business reason for doing so. Learn how to apply for flexible working.
Benefits of flexible working
Working from home or flexibly in the office, is doable in our modern world with technology making it easier to stay connected. Research shows that organisations that adopt flexible employment policies increased productivity, improved employee well-being, talent attraction and retention, and reduction in accommodation costs (People Management, 2016) and flexible working case studies from Ten2Two clients back up this sentiment. My mental well-being has improved since working flexible hours as I am able to use my time to learn new skills training as an Integrative Therapeutic Counsellor, which is important to me as I know I am happiest when learning, and best of all my counselling complements and enhances my marketing consultancy in many ways.
Tips for working from home
Of course, there are some necessary ground rules to put in place when working flexible hours or from home and I thought it would be helpful to share how we manage it as a team.
Communication is key!
It is vital that employers and employees are clear on the expectations set around the contracted working hours – be clear on what hours and days you are in the office and give enough notice if you need to swap things around a bit (but don’t take the Mickey). We use a uniformed approach to managing our Google calendars, so it is clear when we are in or out of the office or working from home. If you are client facing, ensure clients are fully aware of your working pattern so they know when you are available – not doing so can make you look elusive and unprofessional. Slack is a favourite tool of ours too, used daily by all to stay in touch and helps us stay connected when working remotely.
Planning and scheduling workload
I’m naturally an organised freak, needing to plan my workload to avoid panic stations at the thought of my to-do list and I find good diary management and planning my week and daily tasks help my efficiency. As a team we manage resource using Teamwork used to track productivity and organise ourselves by project and task list to promote efficiency.
Finding a suitable space to work at home
Ideally, not too near a fridge full of food, an attractive distraction to the task at hand! Stick to a plan of action for the day and do build in a lunch break otherwise you might get cabin fever. Also, make sure you have everything you need from the office (power lead, access to documents) so your productivity is not thwarted.
What are your tips for working flexible hours or from home? Do you think attitudes are changing towards flexible employment? We’d love to hear from you.
If you enjoyed this blog, you might like Is multitasking a really good thing?