How can a culture of flexibility help create a friendly working environment for everyone?

In today’s increasingly multigenerational workforce, progressive organisations are developing more inclusive, flexible cultures which suit everyone’s lifestyle and working needs, whatever their age; and which will also achieve greater opportunities and benefits for the business.

Flexibility can be attractive to all ages

As new generations enter the workforce, we are seeing a shift in the way people want to work. Some employees maybe looking for a more blended approach to work and play, working later into the evening and taking a longer lunch break to go to the gym for example. However, it’s not just younger generations attracted by flexibility. It can help support both parents to successfully progress their careers and people with care responsibilities may appreciate being able to plan their day around challenging home-life demands. And, with an increasing number of people working over the age of 65, flexibility can appeal to those who are considering a phased retirement. 

The business benefits of flexibility

A flexible culture doesn’t just benefit employees. The Aviva Working Lives 2017 report revealed that almost two in three (64%) employees would be more likely to stay with an employer who offered flexible working. BT also found that productivity increased by 30% when employees could work flexibly and Unison reported that providing flexible working reduced sickness absence from 12% to 2%. It can also improve client relationships as employees who can work from anywhere, and at any time, may be quicker at responding.

Use lateral thinking to create fluid working practices

Flexible working will suit some organisations more than others and won’t appeal to every employee. Some employees want to keep work within the office and within conventional working hours so they know they can switch off when they get home. Engage in open conversations with employees about how they are looking to strike a balance between work and play, and look for solutions which suit everyone. We are seeing more employers using lateral thinking and creativity to introduce more fluid working practices and to remove any inadvertent barriers to flexible working for those to whom it appeals. It could be a mixture of flexitime and extended working hours, through to compressed working hours and the opportunity to be able to work from home as well as in the office.

A change in culture

Managing the different employee expectations and desires around flexibility is the biggest challenge faced by organisations. The overall aim should be on developing a company culture which is focussed on results and outcomes and not the amount of time spent in the office. Challenging any negative stereotypes associated with flexible working, or even just leaving the office on time, will help create a culture in which everyone can find a work life balance which suits them. Those happier working traditional hours will feel less pressured to stay late, and those adopting flexible approaches won’t feel judged or concerned their progression opportunities will be hindered.

Companies such as Netflix and Virgin, famed for leading the way in adopting flexible working practices, have created more results focussed cultures by evolving their performance monitoring. With time spent in the office not considered a benchmark, managers are instead checking in with their employees on a more regular basis to help keep tabs on whether objectives are being met on time and to standard.

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