How to: Create a flexible working culture (and why!)
Let’s be honest, flexible working has often been a taboo subject (especially in the UK!). We’ve regularly heard things like “it’s your day off” when you’re working from home, or it’s been suggested that “the longer you work, the harder you work” and if you can’t be seen by your manager, you are probably not focusing on work.
I will admit that as a recruitment business owner, I never thought that a working from home environment would work. I was even initially opposed to flexible start and finish times because I thought it would impact our working day too much when it came to internal meetings or client and candidate care, but I’ll be the first to admit: I was VERY wrong.
There have been very few good things to have come out of the last few months, but one of them was that a lot of businesses have learnt a lot about flexible working. From what we’ve learnt ourselves and what we’ve learnt from our clients and candidates, we’ve put together this article to highlight the benefits of flexible working, what things you could implement, and the additional things you need to consider to get this right.
So firstly, what are the benefits?
Better work life balance for your employees – and no, this is not a “dirty phrase” - it should be encouraged! It doesn’t mean people will work less hard, or less often, it just gives people balance as and when they need it, so they are more productive when they are working!
Better access to talent - not being based in one location or having flexible daily hours will make you a much more attractive employer to a lot of candidates. Not only that, but if someone doesn’t have to go to one specific location every day, you can hire people based further afield who typically, you wouldn’t have access to.
Diversity and inclusion – a flexible working policy supports any diversity and inclusion agenda. Home working, flexible start and finish times and being able to work your hours at flexible times during the week allow you to hire a wider range of people.
Saved costs – if all of your employees don’t work in the office 5 days a week, you may be able to save money by office sharing, having a smaller office, or not having an office at all! You may also be able to save additional money on business rates, utilities, phone lines etc.
A more engaged work force – people look for independence, autonomy and trust from their work place, and having flexible working shows that you trust your people to get the job done, and will drive better engagement.
Ok, so what kind of things should you consider offering?
Working from home – consider allowing your people the flexibility to work from home anything from 1-5 days a week. There is a lot to consider, but home working has worked out well for most since March 2020, so consider adding this permanently.
Flexible start and finish times – allow people to start and finish work flexibly, as long as they get their daily (or weekly!) hours done. Although, the longer term goal should be to shift your mindset from the number of hours someone has worked, to “as long as they get their job done”.
Wider flexibility on hours – Consider letting people flex their hours to support their lives outside of work or to help them work at a time they are most productive. For example, let your employee finish work early to do the school run and dinner time if they log back in and finish in the evening or let people finish early for the weekend, if they’ve worked extra hours during the week.
Unlimited holiday – if you’ve got clear targets and objectives in your business for every person, and they know what they need to achieve, how and when they book time off should be flexible, as long as they hit their targets and that it doesn’t impact the business negatively
What else do we need to think about?
Technology – you need the right tech in place to facilitate remote working; you’ve probably had to do this during lockdown, but make sure your team have good laptops, internal communication systems, video call facilities and phone facilities to get their job done.
Reporting – you need to make sure your business reporting is running well and works for you – if everyone is remote it’s harder to get the information you need, so make sure your reports are set up in such a way that they give you the information you need to run your business/team!
Communication –flexible and remote working means that you have to make extra effort to ensure your teams feel communicated with regularly. Make sure that individual teams are having regular meetings, and that you have company wide comms on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis (depending on what you usually do!)
Culture – culture is often why people joined you and why they stay, so you should try to maintain this as much as possible even if people aren’t together all of the time. Communication is part of culture, but there are other ‘softer’ things you can do too. Not everyone wants to socialise, but make sure you consider those who do and think about what social events/incentives etc. you can run to maintain your culture.
Management – it might be time for your leadership team to learn new skills! Managing remotely isn’t hard, but it is different. Make sure your managers are comfortable with the changes but also enable them to trust their teams by ensuring they are clear on setting targets and holding people accountable. Make sure you have the right processes in place for your managers to manage effectively.
Targets and objectives – every single person in your business should know what is expected of them, what targets and objectives are expected to be delivered, and what the consequences of not doing so are. If you want a grown-up culture based on trust, people need to be aware of their manager’s expectations, , and they need to take them seriously.
Company and team goals – linked to the above, make sure you are regularly reinforcing your company goals. Depending on how you run your business this could be weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually, but make sure you are communicating and updating your team and business on these regularly.
Recruitment and onboarding – recruiting and onboarding when everyone works remotely is harder to juggle. We have written a guide on this here but if you’d like more advice on this, reach out! We’ve become experts in the last few months.
That’s all for now. If you’d like to discuss the benefits of flexible working more, or need advice on any of the above, drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org