Embracing Flexible Working: A Paradigm Shift in the Modern Workplace

Tina McEwan
October 26, 2023

As I sent my last child off to university a few weeks ago, I wondered where the last 20 years had gone. But no surprise – I am a working parent and time was always at premium. But I was lucky and I often was aware of this because right from the start my employers were accommodating my need for flexibility. My partner also worked flexibly, in one job he worked 85% FTE and used the 15% for helping out in school holidays. It made a huge difference when juggling 13 weeks of school holidays with primary school children. I am close to my children, and I have always been able to focus on my health and exercise. I value that my jobs have always given me the flexibility to be there for my family and look after my health.

The pandemic certainly shifted our perception of office work to a far more flexible approach, now hybrid or even remote working is possible at a larger scale. This progressive approach to work redefines the conventional norms, focusing on outcomes rather than hours spent at the office. But what exactly does flexible working mean? At its core, flexible working embodies a work culture that values autonomy, fairness, recognition of individual needs, and mutual trust between employers and employees.

I found that one of the fundamental principles of flexible working is autonomy. It's about trusting your employees to manage their work in their own way, as long as they meet their deliverables. By entrusting them with the freedom to organize their time, employees often find themselves in a state of flow, where creativity and productivity flourish. I often spend the hour after exercising in the morning on brainstorming and working on more complicated thinking tasks, therefore I really value the ability to start meetings at 10am rather than be at my desk at 9am or earlier.

Flexible working recognizes the diverse needs of employees. Whether it's balancing family responsibilities, pursuing hobbies, or volunteering, each employee is acknowledged as a unique individual. This acknowledgment fosters a sense of fairness and belonging, promoting inclusivity and understanding within the workplace. During times of 'silent quitting,' where employees disengage due to dissatisfaction, flexible working emerges as a win-win solution. Trust between employers and employees becomes the cornerstone of commitment, motivating employees to contribute their best. Reduced stress factors, such as juggling work and family, create a more content workforce, enhancing creativity and innovation.

I find that flexible working environments allow the emphasis shift from hours worked to output delivered; employees are trusted to motivate themselves, leading to increased job satisfaction and commitment. This shift in focus encourages a results-driven mindset, where employees are judged by the value they bring to the organization rather than the time they spend working.

Before the pandemic, I worked in a team of a UK company where some team members were based in Europe. Now, post-pandemic, even more of my colleagues are based outside the UK at times.  Flexible working arrangements opens the door to a wider talent pool. Geographical location becomes less of a barrier, allowing organizations to access skilled professionals from different regions. Additionally, it allows for diversity which brings a variety of perspectives, enriching the creative and problem-solving processes within the organization.  

However, I know from experience that for flexible working to thrive, clear guidelines are essential. Collaboration needs to be clearly defined, time slots for teamwork and communication need to be defined, made available, communicated and safeguarded. Establishing core hours can help to avoid misunderstandings and ensures accountability. Transparency in rules and expectations is crucial, fostering a sense of responsibility among employees.

At Integrated Resources, we all work flexibly and remotely. We use our weekly team meeting to connect both on a work front and also to share what’s happening in our lives outside work. It’s the one standing item in the diary we all attend unless we are on holiday or on a client engagement. We know that picking up the phone to have a chat can be more helpful than sending emails when a quick answer is needed and when we can see the need for a discussion, so an unnecessary ping-pong of emails is avoided.

We have experts in designing ideal work environments considering the physical layout to work processes and policies to provide the foundations for flexible working.  

Contact us to discuss more on flexible working and how we can help you.  

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