Home working has now become the norm for many, with social distancing and lockdown restrictions turning into longer-term measures than initially expected. Active support for flexible ways of working, now and into the future, have never been more important. Recently, we ran our first ever Supporters Network Workshops in partnership with Timewise - an organisation helping businesses to shape working policy and as a result, offer valuable, flexible job opportunities. Flexible work is also one of the characteristics of the Charter, the adoption of which allows an organisation to provide greater equality of opportunity, create a more diverse and inclusive workplace and ensure that skills and talents of the workforce are used to their maximum potential.
Melissa Buntine, Principal Consultant at Timewise, started with a presentation to our Supporters’ regarding the benefits and potential opportunities of flexible working practices. Flexible work has numerous advantages – including greater staff retention, motivation, and allowing increased gender diversity. Flexible work can take many forms - including reduced hours, job shares, and the option for staff to choose their own hours. Contrary to the fear that such ways of working could lead to a fall in productivity, Melissa reasoned that 97% of managers surveyed claimed that the quality of work in remote workers had either improved compared to before, or had stayed the same.
However, Melissa also spoke through the potential pitfalls that organisations need to consider when adopting sweeping flexible work policies – this way of working will not work for everyone. Those with insufficient working set ups, limited technical abilities or those who struggle from a mental health perspective may benefit from a more standard way of working. Reasons such as these are why organisations need to adopt personalised flexible working approaches post-lockdown, in cooperation with their staff, to ensure that everybody can perform to the best of their abilities.
The lockdown is a good chance for employers to develop a sustainable, long-term and flexible working approach. However, this is also a difficult time, making it hard to be working ‘as normal’. As Melissa rightfully emphasized in her presentation, right now we are not “working from home” – we are “at home, during a crisis, trying to work”. These are not typical circumstances to work with even by flexible working standards, and recognising this in prioritising physical, mental and emotional health should be above all else. In the following discussion section of our event, Supporters’ shared their methods to support their staff’s health and wellbeing at this time, with ideas such as mindfulness and ‘time out’ sessions coming to light, and had their specific flexible working queries answered by Melissa.
For more information on Timewise’s approach to redesigning the workplace, and information regarding their further events and toolkits for employers, check out their guidance page here. Our next event will be a Webinar on the topic of equality issues in the workplace - how COVID-19 has brought them to the forefront and how employers can ensure employees are not disproportionately affected moving forward. Sign up here.
Timewise are a Partner of the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter.
Timewise tackle the lack of quality part-time jobs, and promote the potential for more widespread flexible working options. They are called upon by policymakers and businesses to shape flexible working policy and practice.