At the start of the summer I ‘met’ with Emma Stewart of Timewise which is a flexible working consultancy. As someone who has worked from home, flexibly, for the last ten years I can wax lyrical on the benefits it brings, not only personally as a mother, but also to the charities I run. There can be real benefit to logging on in the evening and dealing with an urgent query, or taking a break for the school run and returning fresh to the computer screen with new ideas.
Of course now the majority of the working population has experienced working from home during lockdown but as schools start re-opening, more and more people may be preparing to return to offices. Some may be reluctant to do so having really enjoyed the benefits of flexible working. As Emma says, there is a big difference between a global remote working experience and a real, strategic, systemic approach to flexible working. Timewise is keen to help companies bridge that gap.
The GBC and Flexible Working
The Good Business Charter does not contain any specific reference to flexible working. However, we hope that the measurements we do use enable flexible working practices to flourish and indeed be embedded in an organisation, namely:
- One of our ten components is Employee Well-being, something which has been brought to the forefront of business practice in the past few months. Flexible working during lockdown with kids at home has been essential and ensuring employees feel cared for and catered for a priority.
- Our component on employee representation looks at ensuring there is a structure in place for employees to express concerns and have them escalated up to senior management where appropriate. It includes a requirement to do an employee satisfaction survey – these mechanisms can be effective ways to raise concerns and suggestions on how to allow effective flexible working.
- Finally, improving flexible working practices, including advertising flexible working in job advertisements, is a really effective way to improve the gender pay gap and increase diversity and inclusion. The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee found that “flexible working for all lies at the heart of addressing the gender pay gap.” It also has a positive impact on retention and progression.
Timewise has been running for 15 years and focuses on research and awareness on the benefits of flexible working. They have a jobs index which provides a national indicator on how many jobs reference flexible working in job adverts. They give practical support, going into businesses to help them do flexible working well and work to test and share solutions in sectors where this is a particular challenge. They also run a jobs site for people looking for a job which offers flexibility.
They have a programme of free webinars and toolkits to help leaders, managers and HR teams develop workplaces with flexible working at their core entitled “From crisis to opportunity: redesigning the workplace”. I would encourage you to take a look and consider how you might implement that strategic, systemic approach in your organisation. You may well discover an increased demand from your employees for this.