The increased demand for flexible working

Until recently, flexible working was reserved for a limited number of careers, typically those involving short hours and unskilled work, such as cleaning or waiting on tables. Now, however, flexible working has entered the mainstream.

Flexible working can encompass a variety of options that provide employees with the opportunity to fit their work around their other commitments. This can include part-time work, remote work, job sharing or working irregular hours. 

No more nine to five

The world of work is a very different compared to just a decade ago. Where once the bulk of employees would gather in the workplace at 9am and leave at 5pm, the demands of the 24/7 consumer culture and improvements in technology have made flexible working hours a necessity for many businesses.

This way of working resonates with the growing demand from employees to have more control over their time. No longer are they tied to the 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday. Now, working hours can include any time and any day.

In 2014, the UK government gave all employees the legal right to request flexible working. This seems to have encouraged the move to more alternative ways of working, with CIPD research showing 54% of employees now work flexibly.

Why do more people want to work flexibly?

As well as the familiar flexible workers, such as mums with young children, the flexible workforce now comprises other groups that have emerged in recent years. There are the so-called sandwich generation, who have young children and old parents to care for; there are people choosing to continue working into old age. But reduce their hours; there are the millennials seeking a better work/life balance from their jobs.

In many areas of work, the UK is facing a skills shortage. Technological advances allow employers to fill these skills gaps with workers working remotely from further afield than would previously have been possible.

The benefits of flexible working

Flexible working benefits employers and employees alike. For employees, the biggest benefit is gaining more choice over when and how they work. For employers, embracing flexible working makes it easier to attract and retain the talent they need to grow. It can also cut the cost of their overheads, especially when remote working is involved. In addition, with a workforce working non-traditional hours, employers can offer their customers the kind of 24/7 service they increasingly expect.

To fully exploit the benefits to both employer and employee, we will need workplace culture to become fully immersed in the flexible way of working. At present, some sectors and some businesses are faring better than others. However, by training managers to make the most of the opportunities that flexible working presents us all, and by creating flexible roles at all levels of an organisation, our working culture will finally break free from the strictures of the 9-to-5.

What millennials want from an employer

If your business wants to succeed in the digital age – you’ll want to recruit millennials. But first you need to understand how they differ from candidates from previous generations.

Born towards the end of the twentieth century, millennials – also known as Generation Y – are the first truly digital generation. For them, social media and smartphones are a natural part of everyday life. Where others try to keep up with new developments, millennials are ahead of the game. They are perfectly at ease with modern technology and the new way of living, working and communicating it brings. So, when it comes to recruiting millennials, what do they look for in employers?

The opportunity to fulfil their potential

Millennials don’t work for employers, they work with employers. They are in control of their own lives, and they see employers as an opportunity to realise their ambitions. And, if they are not getting the fulfilment they seek, they are happy to leave and find an employer who is more conducive to their needs.

Despite being unashamedly ambitious, millennials are not interested in working their way up the company hierarchy by virtue of long service and company loyalty. They aim to succeed by proving their worth, and they look to training and development programmes as a way to maximise the value they bring to an organisation. Providing a continuous flow of growth opportunities is essential if employers want to attract and nurture the best millennial talent.

The flexibility to blend work and life

Millennials are not confined by the 9-to-5. Instead of counting the hours spent at their desk, they believe the only meaningful measure of productivity is the value they add to the organisation.

Work is a vital part of their lives, but they see no need to implement artificial restrictions on when and where they can do their job. Work and home-life are not two separate entities for millennials, they overlap and integrate seamlessly. Offering maximum flexibility, therefore, by removing boundaries on working hours and physical location is key to bringing millennials on-board.

The values to give work purpose

Millennials are motivated by making a positive impact on the world. The purpose of their work matters more than simply chasing profit. They judge companies by the way they treat customers, employees, society and the environment, as well as the products they create and the services they offer.

For employers to attract millennials, therefore, they must be underpinned by a solid ethical foundation. There must be real purpose to their role and the aims of the business as a whole.

Adapting your organisation to thrive in the digital age means recognising that technology is transforming what is possible – and that millennials are the driving force behind these new possibilities.

To make the most of what the millennial generation have to offer, it is essential to understand and embrace what makes them different from previous generations. While it is important not to alienate employees who do not share the millennial mindset, taking steps to respect and utilise the unique contribution every generation can make will ensure your organisation has the mix of talent to succeed now and in the years ahead.

Working from home- How we make it work

Woman On Laptop Running Business From Home Office

There are many benefits for employers and employees to embrace this particular form of flexible working. The main benefit is the psychological contract an employee has with their employer is improved. At HR Rockstars we all work remotely from home and we manage our Work Life Balance ourselves. The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) carried out an employee survey and found that workers on flexible contracts tend to be more emotionally engaged, more satisfied with their work, more likely to speak positively about their organisation and less likely to quit. We’ve seen potential talent discouraged from joining organisations on the basis they don’t offer working from home opportunities. We understand why. We all know life is uncertain and situations change. We move to different parts of the country or even the World and it’s not always the job that leads us there. We may fall in love, we may be drawn to different locations for the purpose of getting our children into preferred schools, and we may have sudden or planned caring responsibilities. Having the opportunity to continue to develop and grow within an organisation and have the flexibility of working from home to enjoy what we define ‘life’ to be when we talk about ‘Work Life Balance’ is a the diamond employee benefit.

At HR Rockstars we have made working from home work. It’s not for everyone but you soon realise if you have the discipline to work at home successfully early on. We would like to share the ways in which we make it work.

How to make working from home, work

Go “to work”

Our HR Rockstars all work from home but they all go to work in the morning- (they go sit at their desks at home). We have a clear space to work from, we have our own desks (not the kitchen table) and for us this is important, as our frame of mind is that we are at work. Our advice is to create a space that is for work only. It’s important that it is yours and you can leave work out on your desk and go back to it in the morning. If you can have a separate office great, or even better, a garden office where you literally have to leave the house to go to work. Our HR Rockstars have branded note pads, desk tops, and we have desk treats at various points in the year (NEOM candles are our most recent treat). This makes us feel more connected and part of the team and more part of HR Rockstars.

Get dressed for work

What we wear has an impact on how we feel. We have no dress code when working from home; however, we do all choose to dress for work.   It puts us in the right frame of mind and we are more productive. We have daily hangouts with our colleagues and clients so it’s important that we are dressed appropriately (at least from the waist up!)

Have a structured day

Plan your week in advance and structure your work around specific goals. We all know exactly what we are working towards, we tell each other and we assign tasks and deadlines to each other. We are completely transparent with our diaries and are able to share the load when things get tough. Having structure to our day is really important especially when working from home as, other household responsibilities creep in. We all start work at 9am but we are all free to take time out too. We walk our dogs, do the shopping, pick up dry cleaning or do anything else that will help us enjoy the weekends more with our friends and families.   We do tend to work later in the day but it is our choice to do so and we structure our days around our tasks.

Forget the 9-5!

There is a fear amongst employers that employees working from home tend to skive because they can’t be seen. This can happen of course, but it can also happen in the office environment too. In fact, it happens a lot. Just because someone comes to work at 7:30am and leaves at 6:30pm doesn’t necessarily mean they are working hard, in fact one could question their lack of time management and time spent on Facebook! We assess on work performance not number of hours spent at our desks. We see huge value in being able to spend time in the sun on the rare occasion it comes out in England as long as we can stay on top of our targets. The team manage their time themselves and there is appreciation for this.

Communicate – a lot!

Communication is key, have regular hangouts and communicate with your team. The remote worker is at greater risk of feeling isolated and lonely- be aware of this and get to know your team on a personal level. Arrange regular face-to-face meetings when you can. Be a great manager and invest time in to showing you really care.

We all check in and hangout in the morning and check out if we need to leave our desks. We have our work phones on us throughout the day so if we are walking the dog, doing or doing the weekly shop we can still take a call.

Make sure everyone is included.  

For those employees working from home it is important that they do not miss out on important meetings and discussions. Schedule your team meetings around them. Use technology so that they can be present in those meetings if they are not able to attend in person. We use Skype, Google hangout and Facetime for 121 meetings.

Use productivity apps

We love Teamworks (a project management tool and communication tool) and some of us use specific Pomodoro Timers so we work in bursts of 25 minutes with a 5 minute break so our attention is focussed on the task at hand, it doesn’t work for everyone but give it a try! I can be easily distracted and I find I’ve wasted 45 minutes window-shopping on line. So, when I need to write a lengthy report or investigation outcome, I use “WriteRoom” which lives up to it’s promise of “distraction free writing” by paring my screen down to one function: writing.

 

Having trust and faith in your employees is really important aspect of this flexible working arrangement. However, you need to start with complete trust. Set out your expectations especially when it comes to communication and reporting of tasks and use the tools out there to support you with this. The majority of employees want to do a good job and feel appreciated. Encouraging your team to take control of their work life balance is empowering and they will do more than is expected if they feel appreciated.