Flexible working is a bit like a beautiful swan moving gracefully across the water. To the casual observer it’s the picture of elegance but beneath the surface is a furious flurry of activity.
There’s no doubt that flexible working has grown in popularity and with good reason. Nearly 17 years ago I turned my back on a corporate career to launch my business Lurig, which specialises in business change and people development. I wanted to do the really high-end work but not every single day.
IWG’s recent Global Workplace Survey found that 80 per cent of Brits said they would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working.
Savvy employers are finding that to recruit and retain the best people they have to allow staff to work flexibly.
Here’s the thing. Flexible working isn’t right for every employee or every employer.
Much the same as the beautiful swan on the water, if the right processes aren’t in place behind the scenes then it won’t work and that’s my concern.
I specialise in change management so I help businesses change things and being able to work flexibly is one of the trends I’ve noticed over time.
To enable people to work flexibly you need to be able to give them an amount of work and be confident that they’re capable of doing it.
Managers need to be skilled at understanding how many units of work people are capable of doing. You measure on outcomes and not presenteeism.
Some jobs don’t lend themselves to working flexibly. I for one couldn’t work five days a week from home but I do like to do two days and be on site with my clients for the other three.
The key is having a blended solution. Most people like the flexibility of working one or two days a week at home but also like being with people some of time.
Technology enables me, and millions like me, to work flexibly. You don’t need to be physically stationed at a desk to be working.
However for flexible working to be productive you need systems in place and what works for one person may not work for another.
I recently attended an event sponsored by the global workspace provider Regus about flexible working and all nine speakers had a different story.
Paula Williams, director of onefouroneb2b.com, went into flexible workspace in Bolton because she didn’t enjoy working from home while Jamie Wilson, founder of digital marketing agency Results Through Digital, said all his staff work from home and they’re more productive. Everybody is different.
Get flexible working right and you create an incredibly loyal and productive workforce but get it wrong and people can be left feeling isolated and even paranoid.”