In recent years, CMI has spent many hours researching the impact of flexible working, and has recently published flexible working guidance to help you implement a sustainable policy to accommodate it. As part of our research, we discovered that only 26% of surveyed managers were aware that their employees have a statutory right to be able to request a change in the hours, location or time of work. Although this started off as a way to support working parents, it was extended to all workers who had been at their place of work for 26 weeks or more in 2014. Perhaps this law’s inception, for working parents, has led to the notion that flexible working only benefits those with children – but this just isn’t true.
Flexible working enables all employees, including those with caring responsibilities, mental or physical health issues – and has a proven positive impact on employees’ overall mental health. A 2019 study found that 39% currently working flexibly notice an improvement in their mental health; 43% of people whose employers do not offer flexible working feel it would positively impact their mental health if they were able to do so.
The fundamental case for flexible working is laid out below – as this becomes more popular across employers, it reduces the stigma that flexible working only helps the few. By adopting a flexible working policy in your own place of work, we can change the perception that it’s a perk to being an integral part of any employer handbook.
ATTRACTION AND RETENTION
In CMI’s Management 4.0 discussion paper, Patterns of Work, we explored the idea that the younger workforce now expects a higher level of flexible working. Gone are the days when traditional working patterns were the norm; especially for millennial employees, a company that offers flexible working becomes more attractive.
But flexible working practices don’t only benefit younger members of your organisation.
“All employees benefit from the flexible working policy, regardless of their position or status,” says Alice Valsecchi, people operations manager at Bending Spoons, a software company that was founded on values. “We’ve always believed that it would be ridiculous to prioritise hiring the brightest young thinkers, then suffocate them in rules and micromanagement. We believe that the typical 9-5, 40-hour-workweek on-site model is outdated. There are 140+ Spooners – they can’t all be expected to work in the exact same style, at the same pace, and be inspired by the same environment every day.”
In CMI’s Flexible Working guidance, we noted that “well-designed flexible working can help boost employee wellbeing by reducing the work/life conflict they often face”. In particular, CMI’s paper looked at employees with care-giver roles outside of work. These responsibilities mean that such employees aren’t always afforded the opportunity to recharge and care for their own mental health in their free time – which leads to increased chances of stress and burnout. This is an issue that can, in part, be addressed by flexible working.
“One of the reasons Bending Spoons has a 4.9 Glassdoor review is because we listen to every employee’s needs, and we support them in removing tension between work and private life,” says Valsecchi. “Life is dynamic, challenging, exciting. Why should work be different? If someone needs to go to a doctor’s appointment, pick their child up from school, or even get out of the city for a change of environment, that’s all part of modern life. Providing their work doesn’t suffer, we encourage it. No permission needed.”
As part of CMI’s Sponsoring Women’s Success research, we discovered that many women found it difficult to progress in their careers as quickly as their male counterparts, often due to their care-giving roles outside of work. As of November 2019, only 28% of executive committee-level employees in FTSE 350 companies were women.
Flexible working allows such employees to thrive. It also shows that you’re an organisation that values people’s personal priorities, and allows you to retain your talented workforce and help them move up the ladder into more senior roles.
“Since day one, we’ve always trusted our ‘Spooners’ to manage their workloads and organise their schedules,” Valsecchi continues. “We don’t value people clocking in and out at the same time every day—we value unwavering outstanding performance. If that’s achieved from the sofa first thing in the morning, or later in the day after enjoying a nice long lie-in or workout, it shouldn’t matter. We prioritise a culture that empowers everyone to do world-class work, on their own terms. We haven’t found a single compelling reason to doubt this approach.”
CMI’s Management 4.0 project is looking at the management and leadership skills and capabilities that organisations and individuals will need to develop in the future. Here’s the discussion paper on how patterns of work are changing.
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