Work and You - Making Flexible Working Work

 In an ideal world, work is what you do, rather than a place you go. If you’re working flexibly, or considering doing so, this Insider Guides provides some tips on ensuring you make it work as well as possible for you.

Looking for Win:

win: win Smart working can include working from different, and mobile, locations, working just part of the traditional working week, working ‘full-time’ hours but at times to suit you, working from home and, sometimes, having the scope to work in varying ways as long as you get the job done.

It’s all about finding a solution that scores for you, for those who work with you and for your employer. It requires a mindset that focuses on delivery not presenteeism.

The solution will not be one-size-fits-all and neither will it be once-for-all - it changes often across life stages. You will need to be ‘positively realistic’; there will be compromises as well as gains and any arrangement needs to take account of the culture and current working patterns within the organisation. 

Business Case, not Special Case

Whether applying for flex or feeling the need to ‘justify’ an existing arrangement, remind yourself of the business case. That’s a far more powerful starting point than approaching it as a special favour for certain groups such as parents. Flexible working works best when it is seen as simply an effective way of getting things done.

All the evidence suggests (see further resources):

  • You’re likely to be more engaged, productive, committed, loyal and well
  • You will actually have MORE time to work (and be less stressed while working) if you’re taking commute time out of the equation
  • Quiet environment at home can mean you are more productive on certain projects
  • Businesses that move over to a culture of flexibility as the norm report substantial savings in travel costs, real estate costs
  • In a global, 24/7 always-on world, there is no such thing as ‘full-time’ so we need new ways of carving up work and the ‘working day’.

When making the business case for any flexible working arrangements, use any guidance provided by your employer and also check out online resources to plan your application (under further resources).

Who can work flexibly?

Many organisations make flexibility an option for all, though it all depends on the nature of the work and role, and no-one has an absolute ‘right’. 

Parents of children under 17 (18 if the child is disabled) or Carers of adult dependents have a ‘Right to request’ meaning their application must be properly considered and there must be sound business reasons if it is turned down. Their application must be responded to according to a set process including appeals and written reasons for any refusal.

Grounds for refusing potentially include:

  • Planned structural changes Burden of additional costs
  • Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
  • Inability to recruit additional staff
  • Detrimental impact on quality
  • Detrimental impact on performance
  • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • Lack of work during the periods the employee proposes to work.

Doing Smarter, better: Designing your life - The practical approach

Get really clear about the immovable objects, the non-negotiables and how best to work around these (Working Families web guide is good on helping you itemise these).

  • What can be flexed / negotiated: must-haves and nice-to-haves
  • Your care commitments - days and times - What options do you have to manage these? You, your partner, your family, carer options, contingencies?
  • Logistics who needs to be where and when? What are the likely pinch points and can you sit down together and review how they work?
  • Your work, what time-and-place commitments do you have?
  • Like Stephen R. Covey’s (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) story of fitting rocks, pebbles, sand and water into a bowl, we need to put the rocks in first (the important large objects) before we fill it with sand…

Further on the practical side: Technology

Naturally we need appropriate workstation tools & connectivity, probably in multiple locations, & mobile; identify the best wifi hotspots for your usual routes.

Meetings - can these be set as dial-in as an alternative? Roundtable video-conferencing is helpful. At least explore handy ways of including photos of people to make it personal.

Explore technology available for personal organisation & productivity: e.g. Smartphone apps to create joint shopping / packing lists with a home partner; On-line shopping – saved regular lists & possibly mealplanning; cloud-based document storage.

Download and Keep