What type of working policy would we put together if we started again with a blank sheet of paper – balancing business needs with people needs?
We would probably start by putting health and happiness at the centre of our working lives, balancing work and family while at the same time maximising business potential, productivity and outputs.
Immediately thoughts go to how can we make our business more agile? How can we respond quickly to fluctuating demands, with motivated people aligned with our business purpose? One of the key answers of course is to create a flexible working policy to suit both the business and the employees equally.
This is the question the attendees at the WDF meeting on Flexible Working addressed on 25th November 2014, kindly sponsored by EY. The 90+ attendees first reviewed the state of flexible working arrangements at their place of work, before putting together a best practice policy while looking to overcome the current and perceived barriers to these arrangements.
How Flexible are Guernsey Employers?
On the plus side, attendees rated over 50% of the 54 organisations represented at the meeting as offering good to excellent levels of flexible working, but at the same time it was almost unanimously felt that attitudes towards those who take advantage of these policies are viewed negatively by managers and peers alike.
Of course the WDF attendee ratio was going to be biased towards employers offering better flexible working, as they allow their staff to attend WDF in the first place!
Analysing the results by sector, it wasn’t surprising to find the self-employed ladies enjoying the greatest level of flexibility but they were closely followed by the accountancy profession and the States of Guernsey.
The results for the financial sector were very mixed with some excellent scores and others quite the opposite, this was true too for the general sector – both categories ending up with an average score. The only sector to end up with a uniformly below average score for offering flexible working arrangements was the legal profession!
A Best Practice Policy for Flexible Working
With over 90 heads together coming up with a best practice policy some themes emerged quickly. Firstly – change the name and change the culture! If flexible working is viewed negatively as something which is begrudgingly given to working women, we need to come up with a better term if we are to transform the way we work – the term “Agile Working” was suggested.
To turn the negative stigma currently experienced by those working flexibly, the group were unanimous in their views that a best practice flexible working policy would need to be: –
- Seen as a business benefit – a way to increase motivation, productivity, release latent talent and attract the best employee
- Inclusive – available to men and women, full-time and part-time, with and without children across all ages and grades
- Focussed on a partnership between employee and the business, to the mutual benefit of both
- Based on productivity and outputs rather than hours and presenteeism
- Embedded in a culture where greater trust creates a loyal, motivated workforce
Overcoming the Barriers to Flexible Working
As the Baby-Boomers retire and the working demographic shrinks, it is inevitable that business will need to work in more creative ways to maximise the talent pool. Those organisations with their eye on the future know this and are already shifting the business culture in this direction. With our technological age the easiest barrier to overcome, for most, is the IT infrastructure to enable more home working, while the biggest perceived barriers are resistance to change, lack of trust and out-dated attitudes to management and leadership.
In 10 years’ time it will be totally normal to work from home, flex our hours around our lives and by then we’ll have no problem finding a parking space for our skinny, low emission cars at North Beach when we do decide to go into the office.