In partnership with Red Bull, on 13th September we tackled the topic of flexible working, inviting a panel of passionate advocates to share why it's important and how to make it work for you.
Having control of when and where we work can make us more productive — after all, it’s not about how many hours you work in a day, but how well you use that time. Whether we want to prioritise family life or simply have more time for personal interests, more and more of us are struggling to achieve a happy work-life balance when constrained by the nine-to-five structure that has dominated workplaces for so long. But how do we approach the subject of flexible working with employers, and once we’ve got it how do we ensure we stay on top of it all?
On 13th September, Red Bull and YCN explored why flexible working is so important — not just to parents, but to everyone. We learnt about how we, as companies and individuals, might take legitimate steps towards creating a flexible working culture that's also credible.
Our speakers included:
Anna Whitehouse, founder of the Mother Pukka blog, who launched her FlexAppeal campaign to get people across the country talking about the importance of flexible working.
Celia Donne, Global Operations Director at Regus, which provides coworking spaces and virtual offices around the world, and has developed an internal culture of flexible working that is seeing real results.
Rachel Mostyn, Head of Storytelling at Digital Mums, which trains and supports mums looking to achieve the right work/life balance while building flexible careers in the digital and social media spheres.
Here's what we learnt.
All speakers discussed the importance of defining exactly what flexible working could mean for you and your business. Beyond meaning less weekly hours, Rachel discussed the wealth of workable options which could mean anything from starting earlier and ending earlier, to working from abroad. She used her weekly schedule planning at Digital Mums as an example of planning an agile working week in advance, allowing for blocks of time off or working from home. She also suggested techniques such as setting core times, for example between 10am – 4pm, where everyone is contactable and 'online', with the hours outside the set times having more leeway.
“We don't have the same salaries, so why have the same hours?”, Anna mentioned, with the idea that productivity as whole needs to be assessed by the quality of work rather than hours spent sat in the office. Celia added to this that a business can come up with their own parameters, and in cases of customer facing roles with seemingly less options for flexible working, job share options could be explored.
All speakers agreed that communication is key when moving to a flexbile work schedule. Rachel suggested having the infrastructrue already in place, e.g. digital tools like Slack or Trello, which develop trust and transparency.
In terms of taking the steps towards asking an employer for a different schedule, particularly in a big company, Anna was adamant that her experience taught her to show the company what you can do, rather telling them what they can't do. Going to your company with a water-tight presentation, means that they aren't faced with more work and responsibility trying to work out what you want. A proposal that includes things such as the specific number of hours you want off, the benefits to the company, and example case studies is harder to turn down.
Little things can be re-communicated, for example re-wording a 'job sharing' to a 'job pairing' to show a company can benefit from utilising the skills of two talented employees. Ceclia also brought up that flexible working isn't just for part-time work, that you can work full-time flexibly, and that's important in conveying to people the broad possibilities.
On top of this the speakers reminded us nothing has to be set in stone. Reiterating that a new way of working can be done in stages, as a trial, also puts less pressure on both the employer and employee. Celia pointed to labelling a reconfiguration as a 'pilot study' also means it can be put to action quicker, and you can track what it is that works best. She also talked about making clear the benefits of a new way of working – from lower staff turnover, to saving a massive overhead cost in office space.
Flexible working isn't just a 'mummy issue'; Anna stressed it shouldn't just be for new mothers returning to work. Instead, the speakers' argued that a more agile working life should be for everyone – whether they wan't to spend more time doing sports, being with their family, travelling, or visiting museums. Anna mentioned that making a flexible workplace also keeps and attracts talented employees, saving a lot of the money that gets spent on replacing senior members who can suffer burnout.
Owning it, and being bold is also important. Rachel talked about research showing that millennials looking for jobs prioritise a flexible working schedule, and that now it's up to businesses to accommodate that. Whilst speakers acknowledged it can be difficult to mention it in a new job interviews, changes can otherwise be made later down the line. Anna cited that 26 weeks in a job was the legal requirement before putting in an official request for flexible working.
Location:155-171 Tooley Street,
London, SE1 2JP,
Start:12th September, 2017 at 9:00am
End:12th September, 2017 at 11:00am