Flexibility in the workplace: it might not be what you think…

Charlotte Evans 26.10.2018

Flexible work arrangements are becoming increasingly common, with the modern day employee requesting either adjusted hours or the option to work from home. How can companies offer this flexibility and ensure productivity isn’t affected?

Accommodating to the needs of employees

In recruitment we hear the word flexibility a lot! Candidates saying ‘I need flexibility’ and clients saying ‘we offer great flexibility’ but what does this buzzword actually mean? 

Today, companies constantly need to accommodate for the ever changing needs and wants of their employees, as well as the development in technology and competition across their market. Talking with clients and learning from our own experiences, employers aren’t necessarily as in tune with employees as they need to be.

Why is being flexible important?

Both employees and employers need to be flexible, but why? It allows you to make arrangements about working conditions that suit both parties. Being flexible as an employer really helps employees maintain that all important work-life balance and can truly help employers establish an engaged workforce that can lead to an improvement in productivity. 

What does flexibility in the workplace mean?

Workplace flexibility is about an employee and an employer making changes to when, where and how a person will work. Flexibility enables needs, of both the individual and the business, to be met through making changes to the time, location and manner in which an employee works. The first thing that employers hear is ‘I want to work less hours’ - employees just want to continue doing their job successfully whilst being able to carry out other commitments like dropping off or picking up the kids from school or being there to let the plumber in! 

It’s not all about the hours

Our COO, David Leithead, previously wrote an article on ‘Am I LAZY if I don’t work overtime?’, where he outlined how working 8 till 8 was demanded, part of the culture and even celebrated when he started his career. 

It’s clear that in today’s world this isn’t what most do, or what we need as employees to get that all important work life balance; it’s about making arrangements that can be adapted to suit everyone

This might be working from home on a Wednesday or Friday because you can’t arrange childcare, or simply because you want to work from home once a week. 

How did introducing flexible working go at Morgan McKinley...?

Morgan McKinley asked its employees what flexibility really meant to them and how can the business support individuals based on their own circumstances. What a fantastic thing to do right? How did it all work out?

Reviews of Morgan McKinley

Of course I’m going to say Morgan McKinley has truly embraced flexible working because I work for them and have reaped the benefits! In all honesty, I can personally quote a couple of examples from my own experiences. A year ago I purchased my first house. It required a complete makeover: I had surveyors coming and going, so being able to do my job from home was a massive help. Another example is that when the days are shorter and the sun disappears earlier, having an extra hour created by leaving early makes a massive difference - especially when you have to tackle the routine jobs associated with owning a horse, let alone making use of the odd dry evening to ride. You’ll be surprised how much that extra hour really helps!

These are my own personal examples, but let me back that up further with something that happened recently. Morgan McKinley attended the Recruitment International UK Awards and walked away with not one, but two awards. One was for the Best CSR Initiative and the other, the one everyone wanted to win, was The Best Recruitment Company to work for. So truly investing and taking the time out to listen to employees has paid off! To add to those fantastic awards, we’ve also seen an 8% growth across the group and year-to-date for 2018 we’re 15% up in compared to 2017. Flexibility clearly has been well received and has increased productivity! 

Flexibility isn’t a one size fits all so how can you make it work?

There are many ways to go about creating a thriving flexible working environment, but here are some suggestions: 

  • Trust – This really is key! Not only employers but from employees as well, having this trust will work wonders for both parties. 
  • Make a plan – Have a policy that will mean flexible working can be implemented correctly. You need to look at how things can work for the company and still get the best out of your employees. 
  • Tools to do the job – If you are offering working from home or remote working then you need to make sure your employees are equipped with the right software/hardware to be productive and do their job. This might seem like a huge outlay, but it’s more of an investment in the long run to get hard working, successful employees and results for the company.
  • Communication – It’s crucial to communicate with your employees, if you can’t communicate effectively with your employees, then flexibility will likely fail. 
  • Learn & Adapt – You’ve launched your flexible working policy and people are starting to use it, but does it work? This brings me back to the above, communication. Make sure you ask your employees how it’s working for them; do they need anything else to be more productive? Are there problems that need tweaking? Make sure you look for new options. See what else is out there that might be outside the box but could result in a more efficient and productive workforce. 

With all that said; flexibility, are we there yet? No, not quite. It’s ongoing and something that will be a hot topic for the foreseeable future. We, as employees and employers, need to continue adapting to change and embrace what is.

Charlotte Evans's picture
Senior Consultant | HR Recruitment
cevans@morganmckinley.co.uk