Whilst Tim Robbins top-selling book sells the dream of doing very little work, travelling the world and making a whole lot of money, it’s not realistic for most people. For those who do a job they enjoy with a personal life they love, working slightly fewer hours with more flexibility would make all the difference.
Four day work week anyone?
In 2018, just 6% of people worked a traditional 9am – 5pm schedule. Technology now allows may of us to work anywhere, anytime. There’s never been a better time to work – or not – in a way which suits you best.
So what is flexible working?
Flexible working can mean many things: from working a shorter work week, choosing to work only mornings or afternoons; working in an office, at home or out and about. The focus is on the work getting done, not on the time it takes to do. We can make the most of living in this digital age by not being bound to a desk in an office day after day.
Companies already offering strong flexible work incentives include Lloyds Banking plc and the Ministry of Defence. 90% of the jobs Lloyd’s advertise have the option for ‘agile’ working, compared to the national average of 12%, and the MOD are investigating how flexible job design can allow serving personnel to work part-time during defined periods.
More than just giving people the opportunity to work whenever and wherever they like, there are many benefits for both employees and employers.
BENEFITS OF FLEXIBLE WORKING: EMPLOYEES
Attaining the elusive work-life balance may actually be possible. Traditionally only the reserve of the freelance or self-employed, this flexibility is now often offered to many, however ‘corporate’ the job.
It can save you time and money if you’re not commuting every day or choosing to travel off-peak, when travel times are less or cheaper.
It takes the pressure off feeling you *have* to be seen to be in the office, even when you’re feeling ill (also known as ‘presenteeism’).
You can work around your natural energy peaks and troughs, so if you like to wake up and get on with your day by 7am to then finish at 3pm, you can.
You can work around health issues or caring responsibilities, making work work for you.
It gives you responsibility over your workload, knowing your company trust you to look after yourself!
BENEFITS OF FLEXIBLE WORKING: EMPLOYERS
A Stanford study found those who worked from home were more productive, worked longer hours, took less breaks and used less sick days.
Retaining happy, loyal and engaged employees. When your staff feel this way, they’re far less likely to quit, meaning less money spent on hiring new staff.
Offering flexible working is attractive to potential staff, giving you more people to choose from on your next recruitment drive.
It can save you money in the long-run. If staff are not in the office, office overheads will be reduced.
How to start a culture of flexible working
As with all new policies, it starts from the top down. Flexible working needs to be seen across the board, and that starts with senior leaders. The point of flexible working is that everyone benefits – staff, managers, CEO’s and of course, the business as a whole. Before rolling out a flexi working trial, make sure that everyone is fully on board with it. If there’s any resistance at all, it will add further stress and confusion.
Don’t put too high an expectation on your ROI – be open to an approach where you trial something, then adjust it when something doesn’t work out as expected. As you learn, you can improve. Remember that every flexible-working request is different. Having a variety of options on the table in terms of how people work, and being realistic about the roles it works for, is a great way to start. For example, it may not be possible to work from home due to the nature of the job – but could a shorter day or a job-share offer a degree of flexibility?
Don’t simply look at flexi-working as a benefit for the employee. Yes, people definitely appreciate the option (and in fact 67% of people would consider leaving their job if their work arrangements became less flexible) but see it as a business decision. Improved productivity, a happy retained workforce and financial savings are just some of the benefits. In other words, it’s more than just a perk of the job.
Making flexible working work for you
You’re entitled to ask about flexible working once you’ve worked somewhere for 6 months. But don’t just turn up and talk about why a different schedule would suit you. Instead, focus on how you’ll deliver the role. What can you achieve in the time you’re requesting? What do you envisage your work-week to look like instead? How will you communicate with others if you’re offsite? Make a clear business case.
If you choose to take a part-time option, what are the boundaries around the hours you work? If you work Monday – Wednesday 10am – 4pm, write it into your email signature so people do not expect a reply from you. And don’t reply to them outside of those hours! It will set up an expectation and will mean you’re essentially always working – not the reason you went part-time, right.
Ambition doesn’t die simply because you’re not in an office for a certain number of days per week. Make it clear you’re just as keen to progress as ever and really put the work in to proving that. The more you talk about your ambitions, the less likely you will be forgotten.
Keep connected with colleagues in real-life, not just over emails. Make the effort to go to work social events as often as possible so people don’t forget you exist (!)
Finally, don’t forget why you requested flexible working. Live your personal life without worrying about work!
Flexible working is already a part of business language these days, but let’s not keep it only for small start-ups – make work work for everyone.