The circumstances surrounding Covid-19 have accelerated the flexible working debate. In this article, we consider the opportunities of flexible working.

Claire Walker and her partner, Hannah Essex, are the most senior job share in the country. They co-share the role of Executive Director of Policy and Campaigns at the British Chambers of Commerce. Claire and Hannah have long been advocating for the adoption of flexible working, utilising the success of their partnership to change perceptions of working flexibly.  

So, What Is Flexible Working?  

Flexible working is more than just working from home. Agile working allows flexibility by enabling an employee to work from any location. Flexible working also incorporates different patterns of working. This can be agreed through targets achievable over set time scales, allowing flexibility in core hours worked and opening up job roles for part-time work or job sharing. One size does not fit all. 

What Are the Benefits? 

  • Performance and productivity. The British Chambers of Commerce believe that through flexibility you drive performance and productivity [1]
  • Attracting new talent. There is a growing demand and expectation for flexible working within millennial cohorts entering the workplace 
  • Retaining talent. CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, reported that flexible working practices are a key reason for staff at all career stages being satisfied. In turn, reducing staff turnover [2] 
  • Inclusivity. While there are many people unemployed, skill shortages will remain. Therefore, companies need to look at how they can attract a more diverse pool of candidates. Flexible working will play a key part in making sure that roles are inclusive 

How Can Businesses Adopt Flexible Working Effectively? 

Often, organisations find it different to see beyond full-time roles. It is important to acknowledge the value and pace that part-time roles and flexible working can bring to your organisation.  

However, this flexibility is often associated with a lack of career progression or being less committed. For this reason, there needs to be an organisational culture that embraces flexible working to break the stigma. 

To help this process it is important to adopt guiding principles. For example, core hours, times when people are expected to log on, and touchpoints. This creates an opportunity for you to come together as an organisation. 

Additionally, make sure to schedule social opportunities to maintain the organisation community. Without ad-hoc interactions around the office, organisations need to find new and innovative ways to grow communities. 

Finally, listen to staff. Not all staff want to work from home, it tends to suit those who are later in life and have families or more established home lives. Companies need to cater for all their staff. 

If adopted well, flexible working has the potential to bring individuals a positive work-life balance, increasing organisational performance, and improve our productivity nationally.  

Sources:

[1] Walker, C. 2020. Reshaping the Workplace Conference 

[2] CIPD.co.uk. 2018. Flexible working: the business case [online] [Accessed 21/04/21]

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Claire Walker who is in the most senior job share in the country shares her experiences of flexible working.

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