Flexible Working: A New Way Of Life

Years ago, I had to do a piece of work with a colleague who insisted we all had to go away to a specific location, fly all key stakeholders to said location, lock ourselves in a room, and get on with the task in hand. I was rather confused by why we had to fly people halfway across the world and incur flight and hotel costs for something we could just as easily do online. Alas, he was of a different generation and productivity to him could only be measured by hours locked in a room rather than the outcome.


The flexible working conversation is really more than where people work from or the number of hours they work. It is a new way of life! It is about a new way of working and measuring output and unless employers wrap their heads around that, we will be banging our heads against a brick wall, regardless of how many studies are published in support of flexible working.


Last week it was announced that employees are to get the right to request flexible working from day one rather than waiting for 26 weeks as per the previous regulations. Smart employers are taking this in their stride, not just because they understand the inevitability of it but also the fact that the research shows that you get a more productive workforce. This is what led Kevin Hollinrake, the small business minister to say ‘it’s a no brainer’.


However, there are some dinosaurs of employers out there who are up in arms about this move by the government. According to Sir James Dyson, the bastion of British innovation and industry, this is going to be disastrous for the UK’s competitiveness. There was an article in the Times on Saturday citing all these industry leaders who thought it was a bad idea and it was simply unworkable, particularly for manufacturing businesses. Only one person in this article was arguing for the need to put up with the ‘extra headache of flexibility request’ in order to attract the best people. She was a woman and the irony was not lost on me.


The last I checked, Dyson was a man. He can live in an inflexible working environment and it will hardly take one hair out of him. Women on the other hand either have to give up their job or just succumb to burnout in an inflexible workplace. The lack of competitiveness that Dyson and others talk about is yet to be borne out and in fact research points in the other direction where you get a more productive workforce. Surely increased productivity results in increased competitiveness? 


Also, the UK risks being in the dark ages if we don’t jump on the flexible working bandwagon. Other developed economies understand this new way of working and are adopting it so if we want multinational companies to be based in the UK, we have to be geared up for flexible working. If we want to be competitive, and attract the best talent, the only way is flexible working.


Flexible working requires the right culture enabled by technology and yes more administration (I am not naive about this) to make it work. It wasn’t long ago when providing employees that needed a laptop and phone with one on day one, was an additional overhead but it is now unthinkable not to do that. This extra overhead of administering flexible working will soon be like providing employees with a laptop. Not everyone needs one but for those that do, it is a non-negotiable.


No one wants to wear clothes produced in sweatshops anymore. Humanity is evolving, it is all about treating people as human beings. A time will come when companies will have to produce the equivalent of ‘no animals were harmed in the production of…’ for their outputs. Only it will be for humans this time. It will be the equivalent of ‘no human was forced to sacrifice their health and well-being for the production of….’. 


Just like how we will not put up with the harming of animals or child labour or indeed slavery, we are approaching the time when employees will dictate working conditions and employers parade the fact that their workplaces are the best places to be for employees’ well-being as badge of honour.


I for one cannot wait to live in that world, call me ‘woke’ but it wasn’t that long ago when the 7-day working week, as inhumane as that seems now to us, was the norm!

If you are a working mother and you think flexible working is the way to go for better working conditions, especially for women, grab a chat with me here. If you want to hear more from me, you might be interested in my FREE masterclass – register here to watch anytime.