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Becoming More Flexible

Towards the end of last week, an ex-colleague shared a photo of a local train station car park at 8.00 am. There were plenty of spaces to choose from, and pre-pandemic, an earlier arrival was required to secure a spot (or, perhaps, some ‘creative parking techniques’). Does it suggest a broad-scale shift towards flexible working? Or at least regular flexible Fridays?

Either way, flexible working has its place and could be the game-changer in attracting top talent and securing success. The post also reminded me of an article I wrote back in 2020, not long after we entered the first lockdown. A lot still resonates today.

Let me know your thoughts.

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Image: Onur Binay

How flexible are you? – originally published in 2020

The situation we find ourselves in means a lot of you reading this will have learned to embrace remote working over recent weeks. Finally using the technology that your business invested in years ago to its full potential. Think Skype and Teams, to name a couple, and I really wish I’d bought shares in Zoom in January.

But, remote working isn’t for everyone, some people like the social interaction an office environment brings and some jobs just simply can’t be done remotely. Most of what I read also focuses on the negative impact remote working has had or is having on people’s mental health, and how routine, exercise, and regular contact can help manage it. This is an incredibly difficult time we find ourselves in, and our team’s well-being has never been more important. We should not lose sight of this.

That said, it is not always a negative impact that we see. Let’s flip it on its head and consider the people in your business who see remote working, and the subsequent flexibility it brings, as a positive. Their well-being is paramount as well, isn’t it?

So, how do we ensure we are giving our teams the best of both worlds? I give you flexible working, not new news really, but in there is an opportunity for companies and their people to really change their approach to it. Gone are the days of 9 to 5, when flexible working was just coming in late after a 9 am dentist appointment or leaving early to pick the kids up from school.

For those companies that really want to attract the best talent, they need to fully embrace flexible working, particularly for those functions that have traditionally been seen as Head Office based. And for those people who want to develop themselves in the best companies, then they may need to embrace remote working if a Head Office is a significant distance from home. Add to this the flexibility that working remotely and/or using the technology gives you when it comes to personal appointments, exercising, and family time, and you have a completely different approach to doing the ‘day job’. To illustrate this, consider a Birmingham-based company that is truly embracing flexible working and is happy for teams to work remotely. Their pool of potential talent has just expanded, past those people living within a standard hours commute of their head office, to potentially include the whole of the UK.

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Image: Christina Wocintechchat

It is also well documented that an engaged team is a more productive team, so adding flexibility has got to have a positive impact on engagement and therefore quality of work. In simplistic terms, if the work is getting done, is of high quality, and is on time, does it really matter when it is completed? Some people are more productive early in the morning so why shouldn’t they structure their day around an early start and be able to do the school run in the afternoon, without feeling guilty? Conversely, those whose peak performance is later in the day shouldn’t be frowned upon if the laptop isn’t on at 9 or even 10 am.

With all this positive feedback about flexible working, there are some challenges though. Here are a few examples I have seen; How can we interview candidates? How do you onboard a new starter remotely? How does the individual build relationships with their new team and stakeholders? What does it mean for fully functioning head offices?

Well, we are currently operating in this world at the moment, and we’ve embraced the change through technology.

So I ask again, how flexible are you?

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Image: Brooke Cagle

What challenges is your business facing with hybrid, flexible, and remote working?

And, what are the solutions?

Will they attract top talent to the team?

I’d love to know.

Getting the best out of flexible working still has more questions than answers, but I firmly believe that those that truly embrace it will not only attract top talent, they will retain it, and reap the rewards.

Have a brilliant week!

Dave Rogers, Chief Business Explorer, Fuelled Fit and Fired Up

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