A culture of flexible working is a hard thing to create. However a written flexible working policy that documents your approach to working patterns doesn’t need to be.
(Not sure if your business has a culture of flexible working? Read our earlier post here)
Even the most well-intentioned of businesses can benefit from documenting their expectations around working patterns. However very few organisations who actually practice flexible working or have a flexible working culture have one.
A lack of policy doesn’t mean the business leader hasn’t thought through what this should be. It does mean they haven’t clearly communicated it yet.
This in turn can create confusion and unexpected hierarchies start to form, between employees with naturally assertive personalities and those who are more process-driven and compliant. Both employee types are equally valuable and necessary in any organisation. Having a clear but simple policy will allow a level footing.
Structuring your policy
A flexible working policy doesn’t need to be lengthy to be effective. To help you get started, here are some policy statements that could suit growing SMEs who already have a flexible working culture in place and just need to clarify these behaviours.
Every organisation will have a different rhythm and we encourage you to work through your flexible working policy with a representative sample of your team. Where policies have not been developed with wider consultation in the organisation, this can erode trust in wider decision-making, making workers more cynical and ultimately becoming less and less engaged.
There are 4 key areas to consider:
- Remote working
- Core hours
- Mandatory appointments
- Good practice technology and tooling
Whatever you choose as your policy in each area, be sure to justify your decision with solid rationale.
Remote working policy
Unless otherwise agreed employees can work from home 1 day per week
- This does not apply to personal engagements such as dentist appointments which we know crop up from time to time!
- Where possible, do not schedule your day from home on the same day as mandatory face-to-face appointments eg: management 121’s.
- If you intend to take the same day every week to work from home inform your manager and team by booking in a recurring appointment in their calendar.
- If your day from home will change each week, please notify your manager and team on [out of office] slack channel by 9am.
Why this works: All workers need a) clear stretches of time for “deep” work without collaboration and distraction and b) admin time – working from home allows for this.
Core hours are from 10am-4pm
- Full days are classed as 8 hours (exclusive of lunch)
- Employees are free to arrive early/late or leave early/late to coincide with core hours
Why this works: This is particularly inclusive for parents who can juggle pick up and drop off school/nursery duties but also gives core hours for face to face collaboration to happen.
Unless otherwise agreed all 121 catch-ups should happen in person as should fortnightly retrospectives and weekly team meetings.
- In the case of remote employees, please use Zoom
- Employees are free to run all other meetings remotely
- All other face-to-face engagements such as company socials are opt in/out, although we’d love to have you there!
Why this works: The key here is to keep these as light as possible and clear about why these need to be respected. 121 meetings are often challenging and work better face-to-face; retrospectives by their definition are reflective and potentially difficult conversations are softened with body language; weekly team meetings perhaps start or end with a social gathering which again may be essential for you to maintain the social fabric of the organisation.
Other things to consider
- Diary collaboration
This is particularly useful for organisations without Executive Assistants. Ask employees to include their personal appointments in their calendars – they can mark them as ‘private’. You can also utilise colour coding e.g. use yellow for “can be moved if very important” and red for “cannot be moved”.
- Personal appointments
This is normally implied and covered by discussing mandatory appointments, as above. But this could be a good place to reiterate a common sense approach that leaves employees free to attend personal appointments as long as they communicate their absence clearly and try not to do this during mandatory appointment time.
Some clarity is valuable about how to prepare for holidays. Employees may have different expectations around the quality of handover during annual leave. This is not strictly “flexible working” but part of a wider cultural point which is taking responsibility and ownership for one’s work.
Again, this entry is not strictly “flexible working” but it is a useful place to reiterate which tools and services you use for collaboration. Every business risks paying for expensive tools that not enough people use!
Culturally confusing flexible working policies
- Work from home on a Friday
This is a common yet contradictory policy. It somehow implies that working from home is a lesser task than working from the office. The worst interpretation is that we’re all so exhausted by Friday that we deserve a break – which somewhat ruins the integrity of the “work” in the working from home policy!
It also assumes everyone’s working rhythm is the same ie: you’ll want to do tasks that don’t require face to face collaboration on a Friday. This doesn’t allow for the variables of individual workers. Some professionals may excel at independent strategy work when by themselves at home, with a preference for doing this at the start of the week. Others may use the home environment for working through more routine work and may prefer this mid-week.
- Work from home policies for senior employees only
In this scenario, high performance is rewarded by opportunities to “work from home”. This creates a hierarchy and cements an assumption that “work from home” indeed means have a rest.
For flexible working, culture trumps policy
Flexible working is more than a series of policies. The paperwork is easy, whilst the cultural change can be hard. Employees need to see culture being lived out by senior leaders – only then will they feel empowered to work in the way that lets them deliver greatest value.
That said, excellent boundaries and processes are invaluable for productive flexible working environments. Clarify your approach to flexibility with your employees to level the playing field and let everyone thrive.
Remember also to emphasise flexibility in your hiring strategy. Over 80% of candidates look at an employer’s flexible working policy when thinking about applying and 40% would actually choose flexible working over a pay rise.
By explicitly adding the magic words ‘flexible working encouraged’ you could open up a vast swathe of candidates you may not previously have been able to reach.
Or better still, let Juggle vouch for you and present your business to our highly-experienced candidate pool, each of whom prioritise a flexible working culture. Sign up to post a job as a business for free.