Could you ‘pep up’ your work force by offering more flexible working arrangements?

I pen this Pep Talk one month into my new and revitalised venture into the world of self-employment following a 5-year stint as an employee. As someone used to being my own boss, the decision 5 years ago to seek steady employment was the cushion I required at that point in my life.

Why then have I now decided to break away from the predictable and stable realm of employment, leave behind my entitlement to paid holiday, paid sick leave (should I ever need it) and CPD funding?

The answer for me is simple…

I am an owl. 

Bear with me and you’ll see that I haven’t gone completely ‘twit-twoo-lally’ I promise!

I’m going to give you an insight into my new flexible world. It isn’t a world that would necessarily suit everyone, but my particular way of working has synergy with an article I posted on LinkedIn last week that refers to circadian rhythms  (the internal process that regulates a person’s sleep / wake cycle) and natural owls / larks. 

I am an owl; I can’t do the whole 360 degree head spin thing, but I really wish I could! I rise late if I can and am naturally inclined to stay up late. I have produced good work and effective essays after midnight. In fact, I would go so far as to say that my BEST work is produced in the latter part of the day, often at hours that do not naturally synchronise with the 9 to 5 norm associated with standard employment. I now, as my own boss again, have the opportunity to make real choices about how and where I work. I respect the working hours of my clients certainly, and will work to accommodate their particular and individual needs. I understand that my flexible attitude to time means that even though I think “close of play” is any time before midnight, that is not the case for most of my clients whose workforces stop at around 5pm. 

I am very fortunate. I have an adaptable lifestyle that enables me to work early in the morning or late at night and at weekends if I choose to spend what most would class as “normal working hours” doing something different.

I live and work in a beautiful part of the country. If the sun is shining and the sea beckons, the opportunity to delay the drafting of a letter, or the completion of a report, so long as it fits the client’s needs, is one that I will gratefully respond to. After an invigorating dip in the sea I return to my desk reenergised with a smile on my face, having upped my vitamin D intake, thus improving my health and wellbeing. I believe that an increased sense of happiness improves the quality of my work. 

That doesn’t mean to say that I indulge in a long lie-in every day, or work until after midnight on a very regular basis, but the knowledge that I can do so if I feel like it makes me feel healthier. That in turn makes me a better supplier of services, a more compassionate leader and a better parent.

So, how does this correspond to the confines of the world of 9 to 5 employment?

Recently I have noticed a number of companies taking the lead around a 4-day working (compressed hours) week and some have also had the courage to trial ‘unlimited holiday’ for their employees. In fact, the BBC quotes: “Jobs board Reed saw a 20% increase in jobs offering unlimited paid leave between 2017 and 2018, while TotalJobs and Jobsite told Wake Up To Money they had seen a 10% increase year on year.” 

There must of course be some caution exercised when considering whether to offer ‘unlimited holiday’ to a workforce, as everyone still has the legitimate right to 28 days paid holiday each year and, where holiday is less closely monitored, some people may take less than they are entitled to. Others may take advantage. Equally, a sense of obligation felt by some employees to cover duties whilst other colleagues are off work can put a strain on working relationships. It is, however, a good starting point for discussions regarding flexibility within employee engagement forums. 

Where this alternative approach has worked well, business owners report:

“We see increased productivity, we see people progressing more quickly than they would typically because everyone has so much trust and so much responsibility. People buy into the goals we set because they have that flexibility and because we place that trust in them.”

And:

“So we have uncapped annual leave which enables our team to take the time out that they need, to relax and recharge. The flexibility has led to a more empowered workforce, who are happier and more productive when they are at work.”

There is obviously a large emphasis placed on having trust in your workforce in order for this flexible approach to work. Trust and Leadership is a topic all in itself, however, and we can look at that next time! 

(Hint: sign up to my ‘Pep Talk’ blog and receive regular updates via this link – xxxxxx)

I hope I have started you thinking about your workplace and the potential for real flexible working in a broad way that is not just about offering an 8am to 4pm option to your team members, but encourages you to also think creatively about where and when people work, how much time off they may need and what is possible and practical in your particular environment. 

I consider myself extremely lucky as I love what I do and I really love how I do it, and I shall therefore leave you contemplating the wise words of Marc Antony:

If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.