Wednesday, 8 November 2017

#cipdace17 blog 4 - session C3

After the afternoon break and some more hurried networking I’m in the final session of the day, session C3, on creating an organisational culture to support flexible working. 

The introduction centred around the fact that the technology is there to allow and support flexible working, but that the barriers are usually cultural. I’ve found this in more than one organisation, although have found technology (reluctance to use) to be a barrier in one or two also. 

Speakers from Forster Communications and Nokia gave examples of how this has been addressed in their workplaces. 

Up first, Gillian Daines from Forster. Forster are a small company, and flexibility of and by employees is crucial to their success. Daines cited some examples of how flexible working has helped with the organisational objectives, and gave some statistics on how flexible working impacts on employee absence, wellbeing, retention and engagement. A lot of this was setting the business case for flexible working though, which although valid and accurate, is not really what I came to this session to hear. And thankfully she recognised this and moved onto talking about the challenges they faced. 

Daines took us through a step by step approach to making flexible working work which I’ve included below. 



Forster, with just 25 employees, went through this process and around half of their employees now work flexibly in some way. That’s a healthy percentage as long as all employees are able to access flexible working and those who haven’t, have made a conscious choice not to. Therein lies one of the cultural barriers - many employees do want to work Monday to Friday 9 to 5 in an office with other people. 

Let them. 

As long as it works for them AND the business. 

Up next was Gareth Davies from Nokia, who opened by admitting to be a Health and Safety professional. Brave. 

Gareth talked about some for the generational differences around flexible working. Whilst he is right that there are different approaches to flexible working, I don’t think these are mostly generational differences - I think they are mindset differences, and there can be some correlation to generational origin but not necessarily. 

He then talked about how connected we all are now, and highlighted the sheer range of flexible working tools that are on almost every smartphone or tablet. These pose dangers to individuals unless they are properly equipped to manage and deal with them. 

Another good example of this was managers benefitting from flexibility and choosing to send emails late at night or at weekends. It’s a personal choice and absolutely fine, but when their direct reports receive these emails do they feel there is pressure or expectation to respond at a time they may not suit them? Something I’ve relatively recently switched myself onto is setting emails to send the following morning, so that I don’t interrupt colleagues home lives. It allows me to work flexibly and do what I want to do when I want to do it, but without creating pressure on anyone else who reports to me. 

Davies offered some cultural tips to make flexible working work. Stopping rewarding the wrong behaviours (like working long hours) was a good step they took. They made flexible working visible and something people could and should talk about, and they gave coaching to line managers on making it work, amongst many other actions. 

This was a good finish to a session that looked at how to overcome some of the cultural barriers, and a good end to a good day. 

Till next time...

Gary