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What does flexible working look like now? 3 things to offer

Once upon a time, flexible working was either the reserve of the privileged few who wanted a jet-set lifestyle and could work intensely for parts of the year before taking the rest off to travel. Or, the reserve of the under-privileged: women with a disproportionate share of childcare responsibilities would re-enter the workplace and forced into often lower paid part-time or shift work to accommodate this. But times have (thankfully) changed and as demand for flexible working increases, it’s become different things to different people.

For businesses, it pays to work out what.  

Location, location, location

Some people love their desks. Work spaces adorned with family photos, (unwatered) plants and three staplers they promised to return, but never did. It’s got everything someone needs to do their work; all they need to do is turn up and get on with it. But, for others, being tied to a desk day in, day out, is not conducive to productivity or even, creativity. With open plan being the office setup de rigueur and the problems that invites, many find that being in work is actually the last place they can get any ‘work’ done. Letting employees decide where they work from therefore, acknowledges the fact that people respond differently to external interferences.

Whether it’s working from home and avoiding the dreaded commute, a coffee shop with its relaxed ‘living room’ style environment and clear lines between home and work, or venturing into a co-working space for those who crave office culture, but enjoy the smorgasbord of innovative people in one place – people like having the freedom to do their job from wherever they want. Because one person’s cup of tea and corner sofa, is another person’s wheat grass shot and a hot desk. Giving staff a level of control over their working environment indicates you trust them, so as long as the work gets done, the choice over where it will be done from, should be left to them.

Workin’ nine-to-five

Dolly had the measure of it when she quipped ‘it’s all taking and no giving’. With the eight-hour work day being rooted in the industrial revolution, and used as a way of running factories more efficiently, it’s a no-brainer that its place in the business world over 100 years on, is less secure. The concept was suddenly thrown into question when notably, Sweden’s pilot scheme of reducing day shifts to six hours reported positive findings: happier staff, a lower turnover rate, and an increase in profits during that time.

The introduction of job-sharing, core hours and flexi-time, and compressed shifts allows people to better manage their work / life balance and ultimately, decide what’s most important to them. Fitting their working hours around their other responsibilities and commitments can be financially, mentally, socially and physically beneficial for staff. This privilege, although simple, pays dividends, as companies with flexible working hour schedules are rewarded with increased employee engagement and loyalty.

On a role (or two)

Gone are the days when potential employees stood out during the recruitment process because of a nicely timed period of world travel and self-discovery. Everyone’s been there, done that and probably got the novelty t-shirt. Now, it’s all about the portfolio skills set and careers.

Flexible working, whether through hours, days, fixed term contracts or otherwise, allows people to pursue other vocational opportunities. Employing staff that have experience in other industries, or different projects within the same field is on the rise. Far from being detrimental to a business, polymaths can be worth their weight in gold. Offering new ways to problem-solve, a better capacity for team collaboration and possible leadership expertise, employees that have their fingers in several career-based pies can add dimensions you didn’t know you needed.

People who treat their careers as a game of Tetris rather than a house of cards can be innovators. They’re not afraid to take risks, will bring valuable new perspectives to tasks and won’t be worn down by doing the ‘same thing / different day’. Trust us, by being flexible in this way, you’ll earn from what they learn.


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