A Little Flexibility Goes A Long Way


by Claire Buchan

30th June 2014

Wishing you could drop down to a four day week? Would working from home regularly mean you could work full-time? Well, all you have to do is ask!

Claire Buchan, HR Recruitment Specialist

A decade ago flexible working was considered an employee perk. But it is now a commonly adopted approach for retaining valued and talented employees, increasing retention and reducing levels of sickness absence.

Following the birth of my daughter almost 3 years ago I jumped at the chance of returning to work when flexibility was offered. In fact I've just completed my second period of maternity leave and continue to work from home 2 days a week. My company has a motivated employee who really appreciates the flexibility that would be hard to find elsewhere. Win:Win.

However, flexible working is not always plain sailing.

For many people working productively at home requires a minimum of computer and phone. This needn't be a barrier to flexible working but it is important that HR and IT departments effectively collaborate to ensure that the best solution is implemented at the outset.

Occasionally my network connection has failed or hardware has let me down and it's times like these that I'm grateful for the understanding within my company that successful flexible working is based on trust and discipline, not the number of hours spent in the office. My team could be wondering whether I'm actually doing my ironing (I have a lot with a baby, a toddler and a husband). Assumptions like these would rapidly lead to an erosion of trust between us.

It's crucial that every employee understands the flexible working policy; that there's good people management as well as a consistent approach to all flexible working requests. Understandably, employers may be worried that one request for flexible working will lead to many more, which their business could not sustain. This reinforces the importance of consideration and planning to ensure that misplaced resentment from colleagues does not fester in the workplace.

By taking an open, considered approach to flexible working employers have a key role to play in changing attitudes and nurturing a culture where employees who work a flexible pattern are empowered to apply for promotion. This could be particularly effective for improving gender bias within senior level appointments where there are currently markedly fewer women.

Within our team of 43 staff, 7 of us benefit from flexible working patterns. This relatively high percentage coincides with a period of significant company growth proving, we believe, that a little flexibility goes a long way.

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