Picture by Jason Goodman

How Large Companies Are Embracing Flexible Working

2nd Mar 2022

With 94% of the entire UK workforce now demanding flexible working careers, companies are fast putting in place effective flexible working policies that retain and recruit talent.

The “Work From Home” pandemic has accelerated a fundamental change in the way people work and where they work from. Flexible companies are discarding the old restraints that have historically kept employees based in the office each day, by implementing novel flexible working policies which achieve inclusion, diversity and opportunity for all. So how are the most flexible companies executing this phenomenal shift, whilst maintaining or improving productivity? 

A dynamic flexible working culture

Wellbeing and flexible working go hand in hand, meaning senior managers are creating a people-centric culture that puts work-life balance and job satisfaction at the heart of their DNA and company values. Flexible companies understand that employees have personal lives which must be accommodated to allow them to thrive. Technology has advanced exponentially during the pandemic and the reality is that people can work from home and no longer need to be office-based to be productive. So top flexible companies are offering a framework of flexible working options that can be easily accessed and matched to individual needs, thus retaining talented workers and increasing productivity at all levels. 

Matching flexible working opportunities to local needs

Without doubt, it is a challenge for large organisations to put flexible working in place effectively, especially for flexible companies that span multiple cultures and geographies at different stages of growth. The most successful flexible companies are committed to tailoring their flexible working policies to match local needs in other countries and cultures. Through conversation and listening to their workforce’s preferences at all levels, they define a base offering of flexible working opportunities for everyone, then empower local teams to identify and address the contexts and nuances of their workforce in different geographies.

It is clear that organisations providing the most productive, inclusive flexible working environments are embracing the transformation to flexible working as a permanent move.  Flexible companies are taking the initiative to crowdsource and survey employee preferences at all levels, valuing feedback and using the data to first define a framework of flexible working that is openly available to everyone. Senior managers are fully prepared to take risks, make mistakes, experiment and adapt on the job. This is a progressive journey and flexible companies don’t have to have all the answers straight away.

Role-modelling is key to promoting flexible working

Role-modelling is at the heart of any thriving flexible company. Authentic leaders actively encourage employees to access flexible working by demonstrating that they use it themselves. They regularly advertise senior leadership stories – for example, the CEO has had a busy week and takes the dog for a walk as part of her flexible hours. Or perhaps anyone who has worked for the company for five years is entitled to a sabbatical and this is another flexible working perk that is openly encouraged and praised. Making flexible working easily accessible at all tiers is an integral part of the culture of the most flexible companies.
Picture by Jason Goodman

How office are being transformed to embrace flexible working

  • A community culture - Very few people want to come into the office to work at a desk when technology allows them to do that at home. Flexible working offices are now being transformed into community hubs that encourage innovation, inclusion, collaboration and socialisation. Flexible working teams can book and rearrange spaces to suit collaborative needs. Some flexible companies have additionally included quiet areas, childcare options, a wellness centre and a prayer room to accommodate local culture. 
    Building an accessible, collaborative campus is only part of the flexible working journey - encouraging people to use it is the achievement. Successful flexible companies promote the benefits of collaboration and the importance of meeting face to face sometimes. In-person, hybrid and virtual events are all important for a flexible working culture to thrive, and we must be mindful that we get so much energy from meeting people.
  • Digital first – Flexible companies are supporting those in the office whilst equally addressing the digital/remote needs of their colleagues working from home. A flexible working framework often has a base ratio of 60% working from home and 40% in the office at any one time. Therefore, flexible companies are setting important principles like “Digital First”, using Microsoft Teams and updating camera technology in  their community hubs, so employees working from home feel an active part of the meeting room.

Defining their flexible working frameworks

These are the questions companies are asking when defining their flexible working frameworks:

  • What base framework of flexible working should be available for every employee to take full advantage of?
  • Are we meeting a wide range of flexible working needs for our workforce to thrive? 
  • What is the people-centric environment that people need when combining working from home and the office?
  • How will we find out/measure flexible working preferences and success whilst limiting the use of forms?
  • What meaningful action will be taken as a result of surveys or conversations? 
  • How will we have the agility to accommodate immediate or different flexible working needs? 
  • How will we check that managers are role-modelling and promoting access to flexible working?
  • How will we define a flexible working framework for our different geographies at a local level?
  • Does our flexible working policy achieve inclusive and equitable working experiences of promotion, opportunity and pay decisions on a global scale?