Friday, 17 November 2017

Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living

Over the last few months I’ve contributed to the #cipdbigconvo on flexible working and working families. It’s fair to say this discussion has had a major impact on my thinking and sense of priority, and whilst I’ll update on that separately here’s a follow up blog on the concept of flexible flexible working.

You can see the output from the #cipdbigconvo here. I contributed a blog at the outset, and an Ignite talk at the concluding event. Both were on my role as a parent at work.

In the discussion, a lot focused on the need for flexible flexible working and the need to avoid a one size fits all approach to flexible working. I have blogged before on such subjects. I’ve also spoken about my approach to work life balance..

But what is flexible flexible working?

I prefer the term working flexibly. I think it neatly captures that everyone’s circumstances are different, and that there should be an element of choice and control in how everyone works, balancing the need to deliver business to customers and the need to have a happy, productive employee who contributes to their family life also.

Indeed, it’s good to see some organisations and CEOs embracing this. Philippa Jones, CEO of Bromford Group, recently wrote this article and Nick Atkin, CEO of Halton Housing Trust, wrote this article also.

But it’s not everywhere and it’s certainly not considered normal.

And there’s the key. We need to normalise it.

I want my children to grow up in a world of work where they are expected to work flexibly, and that this is the default position.

We should all work flexibly.

For some this might be Mon-Fri 9-5 in an office and if this works for the business and for them, then let them. But work is something you do, not somewhere you go, and I've always said to my teams that I don't mind where or when work is done, as long as its done.

Organisations often stipulate that they encourage flexible working. But how many really do? Organisations should instead state that they expect people to work flexibly and to manage this in an adult-adult relationship with them.

There's plenty of research available that makes the link between working flexibly and productivity, and loads of recent articles including some in Hays Journal and theHRDirector, so I'll not replicate those here other than to say there IS a link and working flexibly improves productivity.

So why don't we just ask people how we/they can structure their work to make them more productive?

I know I'd have immediate answers to that if someone asked me. Its something I've given a LOT of thought to over the last year.

My final advice to organisations is to trust people to be adults and work responsibly. I've come across a lack of trust too many times when people are trying to work flexibly. So…

Don't say "if I let X work flexibly, it'll set a precedent and they'll all want to do it" - encourage all of them to do it. Why would you settle for just one of your staff being more productive when they all could be?

Don't say "homeworking means homeworking, you can't work anywhere else other than the office or home" - let people work in coffee shops, on trains, in shared workspaces, and from other people's homes.

Don't say "one day working remotely is enough, the rest of the time you have to be in the office" - use technology to help people interact with others in different ways.

Don't say "we have the technology to allow people to work remotely, but its really only for emergencies if they can't get to the office" - let people figure it out for themselves and encourage it to happen.

Don't say "I need you to let me know if you're going to work remotely each time you do it, or vary your normal hours, and give me a reason for doing so" - because that implies permission is needed for going outside a normal practice - make it normal practice and encourage staff to JFDI.

Don't say "permission is needed from the Chief Executive for working flexibly" when its not - why would the Chief Executive get involved in such things when managers should be managing?

Rant over.

Make working flexibly the norm.

Till next time…

Gary

PS in other news, I've hinted at some major thinking I've been doing, and in my next blog I'll be able to explain what this means and how I'm pulling together lots of themes from recent blogs in doing so…