Flexible working means different things to different people. At 9-2-3, we believe that flexible working means anything that’s not 9-5 in an office. In fact, here at 9-2-3, we’re aiming to disrupt that old-fashioned 9-5 concept, and promote flexible working for everyone. The technology is here to enable us all to work at different times and from different places. Admittedly there are some jobs that are more of a challenge to work remotely (I’d hate it if my surgeon husband for example, brought too much of his work home…) But we believe that all roles can be worked in a flexible way - whether that’s part-time, home-working, compressed hours, or early starts/late finishes.

Plus all the research shows that a flexible workforce is more productive, has fewer sick days and greater staff retention.

As you’d expect, our ever-growing team at 9-2-3 all work flexibly. We have three who work entirely remotely. We have seven who work part-time hours (from 16-30hours/week) with elements of home working. And two of us work full-time hours – certainly not 9-5, they’re worked when we can be most productive; and not all from the office either. We’re thrilled at the wonderful messages we get from our candidates; and also at the great testimonials from our clients, who come back and use us again and again (that is the best testimonial after all!).

So I’m confident we’re proving that in a client/candidate-facing industry we can succeed by working in a flexible way. But working flexibly needs some give-and-take on both sides. For example - we’ve just received a lovely note from a candidate we spoke with last week:

“Can’t rate these guys highly enough. First recruiter I’ve ever dealt with that I have genuinely felt they had my needs ahead of the client or their own. Hannah is just brilliant, made herself available on her day off, was so generous with her time and gave me great advice when I decided to go with a role somewhere else. She was a huge, huge help and I would recommend 923 to anyone who wants help finding just the right role.”

So, Hannah obviously picked up with this candidate on her day off. This is something we don’t expect of our staff, but something they routinely do. (And as you’ll see from the testimonial – we really do care about giving honest advice to our candidates. This way the candidate makes the best decision for them; and also we ensure we send candidates who are genuine about the roles to our clients.)

If Hannah had a school assembly she wanted to go to, or she was running late because of a tricky drop-off, or she needed to work from home because her car was in the garage, that would be completely fine with us. She’s clearly doing her job brilliantly. There’s no “attitude” in our office – and no one feels the need to justify their flex.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this attitude and how it’s enabling us to grow and thrive, and how working flexibly in this way requires great trust. As an employer, we need to trust that our staff will fulfil their roles effectively (even when we can’t see them working from home!). As an employee, our team need to trust that we will let them go to the school sports day if they ask, and that working so flexibly won’t affect their career progression (which at 9-2-3 it very much won’t). And as a team, we need to trust each other – and trust that if we win some business our colleagues will put every effort in with that client; or if we hand over work while we’re away on holiday, our colleagues won’t let us down.

Now of course we would only ever employ people that we trust – but I believe that trust across an organisation can take longer to establish. And sometimes it takes time to really get to know your job and your colleagues: what you can realistically achieve in a certain timeframe, specific business priorities and so on.

I think that after two years all those different layers of trust and understanding are well-established. So, that’s why we’ve decided to offer all our staff at 9-2-3, unlimited annual leave once they’ve been with us for two years. As long as their overall productivity isn’t affected, they’ll be able to take leave whenever they like.

Lucy will be able to take last-minute days off to watch England cricket matches.

Rachel will be able to enjoy cheeky mid-week breaks at Center Parcs.

Hannah will be able to buy some more chickens (and take time fox-proofing her garden).

And 9-2-3 will have a happy and motivated workforce.

(By the way - we’re hiring. So if you know anyone looking for the ultimate in flex, send them our way!