Flexible working is hard work

Mathew Cutts | 23 November 2016

Over lunch this week with my fellow PM Society award judges, the topic of flexible working came up. Having recently won a Working Mums Top Employer Award for this very topic (which to be honest came as a little bit of a shock to us) I thought I would put my pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard and share some of the ways we make flexible working work.

The most important thing to remember is that flexible working is hard work. If you think you can implement it and then forget about it, you couldn’t be more wrong! The vital piece of the puzzle is that flexibility HAS to work both ways.

So here are a few tips

  1. Look at each and every request individually, do not apply the ‘one rule has to fit to everyone’ approach.
  2. Set out a framework and rules; for example, working from home is exactly that, it is not working from home whilst looking after an ill child.
  3. Flexible working doesn’t mean staff can come and go as they please. You need to know where your team are and what they are doing.
  4. Run an online movement sheet that everyone has to keep updated for the following week on an ongoing basis.
  5. Don’t be afraid to make some things inflexible, such as, the weekly team meeting that takes place at a certain time regardless and attendance is compulsory.
  6. Consider outputs as well as hours worked, may seem a contradiction when your industry bills by the hour but is necessary.
  7. Look at a part time employee’s time as a total of hours across the week not days worked.
  8. Be open about flexible working arrangements to avoid resentment.
  9. Don’t be afraid to have a discussion about whether it works or not, make time to regularly review.
  10. Make sure you are fair to those who don’t choose to work flexibly or are full-time.
  11. Resource properly and do not allow team members to drop their workloads on others.
  12. Get yourself good legal advice that is paid for on a subscription, such as outsourced services or a governing body that provides it for free and make sure you use it.
  13. Get a good holiday calculator as pro rata holidays can be a minefield.

We have found that flexible working works best when it is a two way process, where the team member also gives flexibility back. This might be picking up the odd email or moving some hours around to accommodate a meeting/client request or workload. Adding this to trust earned can lead to a really good flexible working relationship between the employee and employer.

After all flexible working is about retaining the best talent you can attract. Yes it is hard work, but at the end of the day it is also about making sure you have the best people to deliver the best product to your clients.