At an organisation level it can require a bit of effort to define flexible working. Often we jump to what it isn’t, rather than what it is. Equally there are both informal and formal options to consider. An uneven distribution across sectors, size of organisations and genders can cloud matters further. Technology can of course can help or hinder your thinking.
If definitions are tricky to pin down, then the range of options may also baffle workers. How do we carve up time – part, term or flexi? Clocking the hours that are compressed, annualised or start at zero. Jobs that are shared, mobile or based at home.
There are still plenty of reasons why we should craft working arrangements that give a degree of flexibility; on how long, where, when and at what times employees work. It should be the norm, our default position, our starting point for roles and workers. After all, research shows that many of us (87%) would like to work more flexibly.
Meaningful, high quality flexible working can help organisations:
- Attract talent and support diversity
- Increase diversity at board level
- Improve employee job satisfaction and loyalty
- Reduce absenteeism and support well-being
- Be more agile and responsive to change
Perhaps the range of definitions and options are a red herring. I was once in a role where I was home based three out of five days a week. When one of my team requested to work at home one day a week my inner resistance immediately kicked in. Likewise I pride myself in challenging the 9-5 perception of time. Yet my bias still labels others as potentially late or going home early. There are judgement calls that we find hard to shift.
It boils down to what we value. Never mind flexible working, but do we value flexibility? We have to turn back time and shake off our sometimes long held beliefs. Reflect on when you first noticed flexibility, cast your mind back to those formative years. At school I remember those hot summer days, and the odd occasion when we took our books outdoors. Liberated and free, the shackles were off.
Anchoring your memories begs another question – when did you first take a stand for flexibility? Not a cameo, but a break from the routine. An act that allowed you make this value valuable, maybe even for a wider audience.
It might have been a standout moment, but we aren’t throwing the baby out with the bath water. Flexibility needs to exist in a framework, otherwise chaos might ensue. The values that we hold to be true are key. Only then can we create cultures of trust and empowerment. And only then can flexible working truly flourish.
Stuart Haden is a Programme Manager at the CIPD. Join him at Festival of Work to hear him speak about flexible working on stand D80 at 13:30 on 12 and 13 June.
The CIPD’s Festival of Work (12-13 June 2019, Olympia London, www.festivalofwork.com) promises to be a landmark event for both people professionals and business leaders. By focusing on the most innovative strategies in management, technology and learning, the festival will help you, and 7,000 of your colleagues, to harness the latest transformations and drive a human future of work. With 7,000+ attendees, 160+ inspiring speakers, filled with inspirational live experiences and challenging ideas, it’s the ultimate celebration of people in the workplace.