In an interview with Rhonda Bennett, Head of IT business change at Pinsent Masons, we, Attune Flexible Jobs, asked her how she has worked flexibly for many years, as well as being promoted five times in a career that has spanned twenty years ensuring that working flexibly has never held her back …. When you
Inflexible workplace? What’s your excuse?
Flexible working has become more commonplace in recent years – but there remain many organisations that are determined to stick to the old ways of working. Why? We respond to the most common arguments for refusing flexibility.
We look at some of the common excuses:
1. If we offer flexible working to a few people, it’ll open the floodgates. We know that change is hard, but honestly, flexible working has been around for long enough to prove this doesn’t happen. Many people prefer traditional ‘office hours’, where they can leave the office and know they’re finished for the day and can switch off. Flexibility often comes with an ‘always on’ mind-set that doesn’t appeal to everyone.
2. Clients don’t want us to work flexibly. Yes, there are certain practices where you need to be in the office for as long as it takes to, say, conclude a deal. But most clients will accept at least some flexibility, given that they themselves are facing the same demands for flexible working. In addition, a client would probably prefer their trusted advisor to work flexibly than lose them altogether (for example, a talented lawyer who ends up resigning due to lack of flexibility for childcare).
3. It’s impossible to manage teams where everyone is working differently. Fine, we get this concern. But this becomes much easier where there’s a clear policy in place – that explains exactly what flexibility you offer to employees, and how it works. Chaos (and resentment) comes when informal arrangements are agreed with lots of different people. Management training here will also help to ensure all teams are on the same page and understand how to deal with flexibility requests.
4. Flexibility leads to resentment – why do you get to leave the office ‘early’ when I have to stay? When a firm’s flexible working policy is clear and applicable to all, there’s far less chance people will get upset like this. But it is also important to ensure that flexible workers fully understand their responsibilities and are performance managed as transparently as other employees. In reality, however, many flexible workers work beyond their allotted hours, not least for fear of losing the flexibility afforded them (see this recent article from the Independent, which shows the link between flexibility and improved productivity).
5. We’d lose our collaborative team culture, if lots of people are working from home. Again, it’s about controlling your flexible policy to ensure that teams are still regularly meeting up. There is also opportunity here, however, to agree meetings that actually make a difference instead of constantly conducting meetings that waste time (the scourge of many a traditional office culture).
6. We can’t risk the potential security breaches that come with people working flexibly. If you’re running a modern business, chances are you already have many of your teams working from all over the place as they travel and attend external meetings. If you’re worried about security, talk to your IT team and get your systems upgraded. Once your systems are secure, you then need a policy to ensure that all workers understand your remote working security protocols.
We’re not trying to argue that flexible working doesn’t come without challenges. But a sensible and pragmatic policy that’s clear to all brings manifold benefits – in terms of employee wellbeing, talent attraction and retention, performance, productivity and, ultimately, reducing the need for vast amounts of office space.
It’s time to adapt to a changing world – one that allows for flexibility that also boosts business.
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