Flex: Making it work - as a company

Lucy, our fantastic Head of Ops, has written a brilliant blog on how flexible working ‘works’, but from a business perspective. It’s practical, it’s straightforward and it gives an insight into how we make this work at 9-2-3.

Now, I know that a blog about the logistical challenges of implementing flex in the workplace is not the most inspiring topic in the world.  As a passionate advocate of flexible working, it is all too easy for me to reel off reasons why it is so powerful.  The benefits to business are not in dispute - proven advantages include a happier, more productive workforce, less sick days taken by staff, increased profits, I could (and on many occasions, do) go on …………… But what people don’t hear about quite so often is exactly HOW businesses make flexible working work within their organisation.  

All too regularly, the assumption is that it MUST be complicated and problematic to implement but in my experience heading up operations for 9-2-3, it really doesn’t have to be that difficult.

We currently employ 15 members of staff on a range of part time and full time contracts and offer everyone an individual flexible working pattern.  We tailor hours around each person, taking into consideration the requirements of their role and what impact their hours might make on their productivity.  As a company, we offer remote working, varied start/finish times, unlimited leave (after a qualifying period) and will continue to add flexible options to the list as and when the requests come in.  I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take any organisation at all, but there is so much technology available now to support flexible working that once set up, it is simple to manage and straightforward to implement changes at the touch of a button or two.  

There undoubtedly needs to be trust between the employer and employee - but if you hire someone, why would you take them on in the first place if this was in doubt? You are hiring adults, so treat them as such. I find (unsurprisingly) that people are very happy to be held accountable for their productivity and time, (it’s actually quite sad that this is seen as refreshing). As with anything we do, trial and error plays its part and if something doesn’t work then we go back to the drawing board to see what we need to do to make it better.

In terms of the practicalities of managing flexible working, we use a combination of systems to support teams in their use of flex.  A shared diary which EVERYONE is responsible for updating with which days they are working and where (i.e. Office/Home/coffee shop with access to cake). We subscribe to a cloud based HR system that records flexible working patterns, pro-rates everyone’s annual leave (before they qualify for unlimited leave) and Bank Holiday entitlement.  It also allows us to grant leave through a shared calendar. 

Employees are supplied with company laptops and mobile phones which are taken home, effectively giving staff a remote office to work from wherever they need. Last winter when offices were running on skeleton staff due to snow, our recruiters were tucked up at home staying safe and warm but it was #businessasusual for 9-2-3 as everyone could get on with their work using laptops and cloud based platforms. We use cloud collaboration tools for email and document storage.  Our backup is automated (also cloud based) and we have a fantastic IT support company that our staff can contact directly if issues arise. 

Our clients all offer flex within their companies too and each of them have created processes that work for them.  One well known, international drinks manufacturer operates a simple traffic light system to show availability.  A magnetic whiteboard at each workstation shows who is working from the office, who is working in another location and who is off on any given day.  That visual point of reference has simplified the process of seeing when someone is available to speak to. It has been shown that if other team members can easily see when others are working, this helps with collaboration and cohesiveness within the department.  

The GLA are another large organisation that offer individual flexible working patterns to their staff (around 1000 at the last count) - evidence that it isn’t only smaller workforces that can adopt these strategies. The key is that it doesn’t have to be complicated.  In fact, “Keep it simple” is a great rule to have.

As 9-2-3 grows, the flex we offer everyone will also develop. The passion for making flex mainstream runs through the veins of everyone here and with good reason.  As a company we are building a team so happy, hard working and loyal that I often pinch myself.  I couldn’t wish for better colleagues or a more amazing working environment - as an employee I have a job that allows me the freedom to work when suits me best and allows me to deliver in my career without compromising my life outside work.  As an employer, I have a workforce that gives their all.  They are able to do so because they are happy and supported at work, with the knowledge that their employer understands that they have a life and other responsibilities outside of work and this doesn’t detract from their ability to do their job -  if anything it allows them to do it better.