By proactively offering flexible working, organisations provide permission to employees to work more autonomously.
'A proactive approach from managers would make flexibility a gender-neutral matter. It would benefit large numbers of employees (87% want to work flexibly). It would open up flexible career pathways for those already working flexibly. And it would create fairer workplaces, as flexible working is associated with increased diversity and inclusion', 'Proactive approaches to discussing flexible working', Timewise.
“We know that there is often a gap between flexible working policy and practice. The key to closing that gap is really good line management – which means ensuring line managers are properly equipped to help staff work flexibly and empowered to champion flexible working and call out bad practice.” Niamh Mulholland, Director of External Affairs, CMI, Timewise.
Refer to the following pages of our Open Playbook for further information:
- Use senior management as visible flexible working role models - encouraging them to talk about their use of flexible working in the day to day interactions, when they're making speeches when they're in meetings. Watch this video to hear how EY is doing this.
- Focus on myth-busting to create a common understanding of what flexible working is across the organisation.
- Communicate and talk about success stories, sharing examples of a variety of employees working flexibly evidencing that people can progress when they are working flexibly.
💡 Case study: The UK Civil Service has developed an across government job finder tool
enabling the identification of job share partners across the whole of the civil service, including at senior levels. This tool has enabled the embedding of job sharing as a form of flexible working and has reaped organisational cost savings in terms of retention. Case study shared in the ACAS report 'Flexible working for parents returning to work: Maintaining career development'. This tool has also been featured in this Forbes article: 'Are You Missing Out On The Latest Workplace Revolution? The Untapped Potential Of Job Sharing'.
- According to Timewise, 'Flexible working strategy, for most organisations, still relies on a ‘request-response’ model. That is: an employee makes a request to work part-time or flexibly, and the line manager or HR department responds to that. It’s a model that Timewise would like to see replaced with a systemic proactive approach. The request-response model is to blame for much of the stigma around flexible working (especially part-time arrangements). This is because it pigeon-holes flexibility as something that’s considered only in special circumstances, predominantly associated with women and childcare'.
💡 'Amiqus were keen to advertise their roles as flexible and that they were open to alternative working arrangements like remote working, which had the additional benefit of making their roles widely geographically accessible:
What it does and what I like is that it opens up the opportunity to anyone, really. You don't need to be in here all the time so if you have other things in your life that you need time to do, then that's fine. For me that's the big benefit…I think long-term, the company benefits from opening up the opportunities very wide… (Head of People. Amiqus Resolution Ltd, Digital Legal Services, 11-50 employees)', Case study shared in Addressing the gender pay gap: employer methods, Scottish Government.
💡 This CIPD and Timewise report provides ten recommendations for organisations:
- Clarify the benefits of flexible working to the organisation and to individuals.
- Find the compelling hook or business imperative that will gain traction in the organisation.
- Communicate to dispel myths around what flexible working is and who it is for, share successes and build communities.
- Find creative ways to encourage a range of flexible working practices for all employees – both in terms of innovative flexible working initiatives and creative ways to build flexibility into job roles that have not traditionally been seen as suitable for flexible working.
- Aim to hire flexibly and design the jobs to suit the flexible pattern (that is, full-time jobs are not squeezed into part-time hours).
- Ensure ongoing access to development and career conversations for flexible workers.
- Set the organisational context and consider organisational facilitators and barriers, including creating a supportive organisational culture, underpinned by leadership and HR support.
- Gain manager buy-in through communicating benefits and sharing success stories and providing support and guidance.
- Consider the facilitators and barriers at manager, team and individual levels.
- Measure and evaluate flexible working and learn from trials using quantitative and qualitative measures.