First things first. There are some jobs that cannot be done flexibly, neither in time nor in location. If you need to open a shop at 9.00am, then the options for flexibility will be minimal at best. There are plenty of others roles that need to be done at particular times and at particular places too.
This blog post isn’t about those jobs.
I develop employment policy for a living (I know, but someone has to do it). For although there are plenty of organisations that claim they support flexible working and families, I have yet to see one that has published a policy that goes beyond the statutory requirements. Most places still require employees to have six months service before they can make a formal request. Most policies spend a whole lot of time stating the reasons why a request can be turned down and outlining process over positive action. Policy aside, for many flexible working is still seen as something for childcare and for women.
How many organisations expressly stating in their job advertisements that flexible working is an option – or even encouraged?
How many organisations actively promote their policies and remind their employees of them on a regular basis?
How many organisations share flexible working success stories?
How many organisations encourage a discussion about flexibility or working hours at the job offer or interview stages?
How many organisations have senior leaders openly working flexibility?
There are some organisations doing good stuff. I loved the idea from UK Fast recently where they gave a day off to parents whose child was starting school for the first time. The cost of such an initiative was probably negligible. The benefit to those parents, imaginable.
But individual examples aside, the answer to the above questions is usually…… not enough. Not nearly enough.
Instead when I talk to people about flexible working, I hear the same issues, over and over.
My manager doesn’t support it even though there is a policy that says we can.
I asked but was told no.
Some departments can have it and some can’t.
Home working is frowned upon.
I don’t think we allow that.
My manager doesn’t want to set a precedent.
It is felt that if everyone can’t have it no one can.
I don’t feel like I can ask.
I haven’t been there long enough to ask.
Many organisations talk the flexible working talk. They have policies and statements on websites. But most aren’t taking the step from talking about it to promoting it, enabling it, encouraging it.
This is what we need more of. Innovative solutions. Genuine options. Role models. Removal of fear. Clear signals via policy and leadership that flexible working is a positive thing, not something to be ‘managed’ or avoided.
If you don’t trust your people to work flexibily, then you don’t trust your people.
Flexible working. It’s about retention. Talent. Engagement. It’s about balance, about life.
It’s about 2017.
Let’s do better.
I am delighted to be supporting CIPD Manchester’s Big Conversation about families, parents and the workplace. Check out the dedicated blog here and follow the hashtag #CIPDBigConvo.