Flexible working – how a flexible approach can work for everyone

Jeff Michon

Flexible working has traditionally been the preserve of the public sector, and the idea may strike fear into the hearts of those who run their own business. But while it can present logistical challenges, employers who are willing to try it also find surprising benefits.

As a small but incredibly busy agency, we expect our team to be ready to respond to a client’s needs, sometimes at a moment’s notice. Deadlines, meetings and last-minute projects are, of course, part of the job and this demands a high level of commitment and flexibility.

However, when it comes to giving staff the freedom to manage their own time, many companies are reluctant to stray from the rigid nine to five framework. Working from home, flexi-time and job shares have all-too-often been seen as a headache for employers, who might be concerned about productivity, keeping track of people’s different hours or ensuring someone is always on hand for clients.

Today’s technology – particularly faster broadband speed – makes it easier than ever for people to work outside the office at a time to suit them. Knowing what they need to complete, and by when, encourages a more grown-up approach to working as teams and individuals feel more in control of their projects.

But rather than simply being a perk for staff, a policy like this can also help businesses to flourish, as we have found at Michon. For us, one of the most important benefits is the fact that we can now tap into a wider talent pool when recruiting new members to the team – such as parents with young children who might have thought that they could not juggle agency work around their home life.

Making a company more attractive to people with families, as well as those with other caring responsibilities, paves the way for a more diverse workforce, who bring in fresh ideas and skills. Not only that but a flexible attitude also contributes to staff retention, reducing the need for a costly recruitment process. Team members will value the level of trust that it brings, and an employer is more likely to be rewarded with higher levels of loyalty.

Ultimately, implementing flexible working practices must never be at the expense of the business, and managers should always ensure there are ground rules in place. This could include setting core hours, making sure there is someone in the office every day of the week and maintaining regular communication. But when the whole team understands what is expected of them, and can take ownership of their work, the results can be astonishing.