“Flexible Working provides a great way to run a business. It creates a happy, committed workforce who will help to make more money, but will only succeed if top management understands the potential benefits – any move towards flexible working must be led by the Chief Executive.
Our experience, at Timpson, is that flexible working is a two-way deal that is better created by a conversation than a set of rules. It does not mean that employees can demand that their job is changed to suit their lifestyle, but it does mean employers should encourage their employees to, if at all possible, do their job at a time and place that suits them best. Many bosses ultimately discover that by creating roles to suit individual colleagues they get the best results for both the business and its workforce.
Society is changing and rigid working patterns don’t fit the way people now live their lives. In 20 years’ time very few businesses will have failed to have found the benefits that flexible working will bring. Our job is to make management today wake up to the realities of tomorrow’s world. Companies that encourage colleagues to work the way that suits them best are more likely to attract the most talented new recruits and retain their loyalty.
Flexible working cannot be developed by setting rigid guidelines. To change culture, we need to create a world based on trust and freedom, rules won’t work. We don’t want managers to follow a formula we simply want them to “get it”. At the heart of any flexible arrangement is an element of trust. The old command and control form of management is out dated.
It is old fashioned to confuse flexible working with “part time”. There are many ways to break away from the traditional 9 to 5 office existence – flexitime, job sharing, working from home, arriving early or leaving late – these are all ways I have seen bring benefit to both the company and a colleague.
In making any request employees are not obliged to consider the impact on the business, but they should. Beginning any request with an acknowledgement of how the business might be affected and any impact minimised will go a long way to seeing more successful requests and a more agile workforce.
Flexible working that allows people to be themselves, makes a major difference to self esteem. The move to more flexible working should be reflected by more flexible employment contracts. Neither employer nor employee should be arguing the small print, the only way to set up a satisfactory flexible working arrangement is through a two-way dialogue.
There are jobs where some flexible working practices are not suitable. A shop assistant can’t work from home. But even, as I have found, shopkeepers can employ a flexible approach. A lot of Timpson shoe repair and key cutting stores are open seven days a week and have to operate a shift system. We usually leave it to the colleagues covering each store to decide amongst themselves what hours they want to work. That gives them the flexibility to find a balance between work, home and leisure.”
John Timpson, CBE, Chairman, Timpson PLC