The power of flexible working

25th February 2019

Flexible working contributes to a manageable work life balance, and it’s not just for working mums.

Modern working practices – particularly flexible working – can produce a wide range of benefits for businesses and their employees. Supporting staff with options to manage their work alongside other responsibilities means staff are happier, more engaged and more productive in work. A flexible work environment enables a better home life, improved personal relationships, and better health and wellbeing. The returns for employers include less absenteeism, improved staff retention, and increased productivity and engagement.

There are also benefits to the Welsh economy and society as a whole. The proportion of Welsh women in paid employment continues to increase, however there is some way to go to ensure parity and inclusivity is reached. If we close the gender pay gap it is estimated we could add £150bn to GDP by 2025. The impact on Wales would be an 8% growth to our economy.

Modern working practices can help increase employment rates, particularly for those with caring responsibilities. This is significant for women, who continue to play a disproportionate role in childcare responsibilities. Flexible working options mean more women can return to work full time after having children, and not be limited to part-time, often lower paid or lower skilled jobs. Offering flexible working can also contribute to addressing the skills shortage in certain sectors, such as energy and ICT, by removing barriers and encouraging more women to enter them. Chwarae Teg works with businesses to address and benchmark these economic gender issues through our FairPlay Employer service.

Chwarae Teg research shows that the majority of Welsh businesses regard modern working practices as having positive impacts for employers and their employees, as well as offering wider societal and economic benefits. And these benefits are common to all sectors. But what are the barriers to implementation of modern working practices, and how can employers overcome these to make it work for their needs?

Key concerns we hear include client expectations, where flexible working hours may not match client office hours, loss of team atmosphere, managers attached to the traditional 9-5, five day working week, and negative attitudes towards working from home or part time. Infrastructure limitations can make implementation of agile working difficult, particularly in parts of Wales where there is limited mobile signal and slow internet speed.

To overcome these challenges communication and clarity between managers and staff around expectations and work load is vital, as is having effective guidelines for employers and employees to use as a framework. Flexible working can take many forms – part time hours, compressed hours, flexitime, job-sharing and working from home being the most common.

Strong leadership and visible role models for flexible working are key to change culture both within organisations and to challenge cultural working norms throughout Wales. At Chwarae Teg all staff including CEO Cerys Furlong work to an “Achieve” results-only working environment (ROWE) model, an approach that is less well known in Wales.

Several senior managers work compressed hours, almost all managers work from home regularly, and mobile and home working is facilitated for all employees. In Chwarae Teg’s offices hot desking and Skype meetings are the norm. Work is very much an activity and not a location, with a focus on action and results – not time spent in the office.

The DVLA, an executive agency of the Department for Transport, was one of the first organisations to sign up to Chwarae Teg’s FairPlay Employer Service.

Launched at the end of 2017, the FairPlay Employer service supports businesses to deliver on gender equality and diversity, and reap the benefits. The DVLA has successfully piloted modern working practices to adapt the way it manages people and the way they work, in order to drive cultural change.

The pilots have been well received, with 66% of staff surveyed stating that it has greatly improved their work/life balance, and those with caring responsibilities reporting that if it weren’t for the scheme they would have had to take more paid or unpaid leave to manage their responsibilities. There was a significant improvement on short term sickness absence over 12 months.

“Managers are reporting more engagement, enthusiasm, and a greater focus on getting the job done amongst their staff with some excellent examples of increased team working. There is less clock watching and worrying about how to make back time and more focus on good quality delivery.”

Sue Feathers
HR Business Partner, DVLA

Chwarae Teg works with Welsh employers to help them adopt modern working practices to benefit their staff and their bottom line.

To learn more, contact Louise David – Business Development Lead; or 02920 828097