A great approach to flexible working

The Acorn Support team has always been advocates of offering your employees a flexible approach to working. We believe it increases employee loyalty, employee retention and improves the well being of your employees by reducing stress.

So when the following article popped into our inbox this week from unum.co.uk we wanted to share it with you.

We do understand that depending on the nature of your business it is not always possible to offer flexibility but it’s still an interesting article about a business that has thought outside of the box!

While many companies make a move to bigger offices to accommodate a growing enterprise, B2B information and events company, Incisive Media, took the opposite approach and downsized – embracing a new flexible working approach to suit the needs of their forward-thinking workforce.

As the 2012 London Olympics approached, Unum customer, Incisive Media, debated what would happen if the city’s transport system buckled under the pressure of the millions of spectators that were due to attend the games. In a staff survey, 85% of employees said they would prefer to work from home during those two weeks. This planted a seed that got the company thinking in a different way. Stuart McLean, HR Director, explained that the combination of moving offices and the preference to work from home led to a new philosophy for flexible working.

“It’s part of a bigger well-being programme, helping our employees achieve a better work-life balance,” Stuart explains, “it’s not always necessary to be in the office five days a week.” The company enlisted the help of workplace consultancy spacelab who analysed how the workforce interacted and how a non-allocated desk strategy could break down silos and create a more collaborative atmosphere.

While there’s no quota for how many days an employee needs to be in the office, Stuart makes it clear that their output can’t be affected and they need to be contactable within the company’s core hours, 10am until 4pm, but there can be exceptions: “we’re a 24 hours business, so if it suits someone to work midnight to 8am, we’d like to be able to accommodate that.”

It’s been about 12 months since this change, so how have managers adapted?

“It has been difficult for some managers to see the benefits so far” remarked Stuart, “although we held training on how to manage remotely and asked them to develop a plan themselves, based on managing output, rather than presenteeism, which helped a lot. But in hindsight, it’s something we could have done more with and we’re still working on that in some areas.”

As the HR Director, pressure was on to prove output wouldn’t falter: “if we believed productivity would go down, we wouldn’t have done it.” Stuart’s also seen Incisive Media’s sickness absence drop by about 50%, now that people don’t feel compelled to journey into the office when they’re feeling a little under the weather. They can work from the comfort of their home, recuperating in their own time and avoiding a busy and perhaps stressful commute that may make an illness worse. Plus they won’t be infecting anyone else in the office.

Most importantly, if staff want to regularly work at home, they are required to fill in health and safety forms, submit a photo of their workstation clearly showing appropriate seating and lighting and are given a keyboard and mouse to go with their laptop: “it’s not considered good practise to use a laptop for hours on end.”

Following staff surveys, the general reaction has been very positive, even with the initial issues they’re still working through. And although Stuart comments that stress hasn’t been a huge problem in the company, they’ve noticed usage of their Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) has reduced. Plus, another bonus of the downsizing is that Incisive Media are saving £1.8million a year, despite investing in technology to support their remote workers.

With the nation constantly trying to balance demands of their work and families, “this is just an adult way of dealing with people, trusting them and treating them with respect.” Stuart says. If they can produce the same quality work, why can’t they pick and choose when they come into the office? Technology advances mean it’s becoming easier and easier to connect and communicate and it’s no longer imperative to make that commute into the office every day.

So with more and more people requesting flexible working, this approach may be the future of the working world.

 If you need advice on how to move to more flexible working for your employees, then we can help

27 Harvine Walk, Norton, Stourbridge, West Midlands, DY8 3BQ

Tel: 01384 823835

http://www.acornsupport.co.uk

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