Impending surge for longer-term flexibility – do you and your managers have the skills to cope?

The Myth:

Enabling employees to work from home during the pandemic has been essential to the survival of our economy.  However, those organisations who believe that this change to working practices is for the short-term only, are not only mistaken, they may also be missing a huge trick for the mid and long term. 

In order for your company to really be flexible; family-friendly and agile, there needs to be many more options for flexibility than just working from home.  An agile strategy which is focused on the long-term, rather than the reactive, fire-fighting approach many have adopted – is essential.

Flexible working for those who can’t work from home

The CIPD has found that flexible working opportunities are not fair.  They are not available equally to everyone and this particularly affects those in lower paid or less senior roles.  In fact, the CIPD has found that 46% employees don’t have flexible work arrangements and 44% have not worked from home at all since the start of the pandemic.

In response, the CIPD has launched the campaign #FlexFrom1st, to encourage employers to support flexible working for all, and from day 1. 

Difference between formal and informal flexible working

Formal flexible working is when a contractual change is made; for example if hours are reduced, a job is shared or if a certain shift pattern needs to be locked in.  Many working parents need this permanent change to ensure they can commit to childcare pick-ups consistently every week – so they work part-time, term-time only or do a job-share.

Informal flexible working is when a working pattern is agreed between a manager and an employee, which is often at the manager’s discretion and when no change to the employee pay or contract is needed.  This is the route that most employees have taken during the pandemic, to enable them to work from home where possible and for as long as is necessary. 

It’s critical that employers take an inclusive approach that allows for flexibility as a central part of the value proposition for all employees, regardless of role.

The future demand of formal flexible working

HR Executive published the article last year: How Covid-19 will redefine workplace flexibility forever. It states that ‘the pandemic has transformed flexible working from a desirable perk into a powerful people practice.’

At P&P Coaching we believe that there will be a huge demand for more formal flexible working as employees who have enjoyed a greater level of freedom and independence seek to lock-in and formalise these patterns for the longer term.  Those who haven’t been able work from home may well also put more pressure on their employers for flexibility – or look for an organisation where this is already offered.

The Skills Gap

Are our managers ready to cope with impending conversations on longer-term and more formal flexible working conversations?

Whilst nearly 100% of managers rate themselves as being supportive of employees with families, only half of their subordinates agree with this assessment.

Harvard Business Review – Work, Parenting and the Pandemic November 2020

Managers need to be able to:

  • Understand the process and policies that surround all types of flexibility
  • Know what to say and do at each part of the process of application to ensure they stay on the right side of the law
  • Value and encourage output and productivity of the team
  • Ensure the overall team still performs, with adequate headcount
  • Encourage career progression for those working flexibly
  • Ensure an even team workload to manage those who don’t work flexibly
  • Communicate to the whole team in a way that makes both flexi and non-flexi-workers feel supported and valued

Those working flexibly need to be able to:

  • Fully think through their decision to apply – the pros and the cons
  • Understand the process of application – and how to present a balanced and business-focussed proposal
  • Re-assess and potentially work on their own time management and self-organisation skills
  • Understand what they want from their careers and set new objectives to reflect their working patterns
  • Network with others in the same position for increased confidence

Make a start by offering training to managers in these areas

At P&P Coaching, our 1-hour Managing Flexibility webinar equips managers with the skills they need to understand the difference between formal and informal flexibility; it will help them identify simple ways to work with their team members on the right type of flexibility for them and the business.  Email us for more details:

This week’s blog is written by co-founder of Parent & Professional, Helen Letchfield.