The Importance of Flexible Working

Flexible working helps to retain personnel, but some organizations face challenges with making it work.


The Importance of Flexible Working

Nine out of 10 people want or have some flexibility in their work. Emma Stewart, MBE, CEO and cofounder of Timewise, describes the three steps that companies can take to embrace flexible working options, namely, aligning leadership, examining culture and ensuring capabilities.

EMMA STEWART: Flexible working is really important for driving diversity and inclusion because the workforce has changed. We now know 9 out of 10 people want or have some form of flexibility in their work. And we need to stop trying to fix the people and start trying to fix the system, which means creating more opportunities for flexible working in the workplace.

For organizations to take really tangible action on flexible working, they essentially need to look at three things. First, leadership. They need to create a business case to really to get leadership buy-in to taking action. And that doesn't mean just changing a flexible working policy. It means creating a strategy. Secondly, they need to look at culture. So this is about shifting the behaviors and creating principles and guidance for workers, managers and leaders to act differently and role modeling that real importantly.

And then thirdly, capabilities. They need to ensure that managers and HR teams are trained in understanding flexible job design—which, fundamentally, if you are going to change how people work, you need to understand what the parameters are for doing that.

Flexible working is really important both to retain staff but also to attract great talent in. So organizations who really want to make an impact in relation to flexible working need to be having proactive conversations with employees at different points in their careers but also significantly at the point of recruitment—so not just with employees but with candidates, with people they've never met yet. Because unless organizations talk about that flexibility and that openness to the conversation, they won't attract the right kind of talent that wants to work flexibly.

The main stumbling block for organizations who struggle to do this well is that they don't fundamentally understand the shift they need to make between accommodating people asking for flexible working, which you'll do in pockets and is often why you end up with an inconsistent approach. The shift that we at Timewise help organizations make is towards being more proactive and taking a systemic change, so thinking proactively and having those conversations about how much, where and when people need to work. And if you get that shift right, then you'll get the behaviors and you'll get the actions flowing from that.

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