For a while now 'flexible working' has been the workplace buzz phrase, used when talking about millennials' attitude to work, new mums who are heading back to employment after maternity leave, or employee focused employers who want to promote a good work/life balance.
Flexible working has become the holy grail - the kind of work pattern that many want and only a few seem to get. Even I have been guilty of hating on a friend of mine who seems to come and go at work whenever she pleases, whilst I am at my desk by 9am and don't leave until after 5.30pm most days.
According to the "Flexible Working: A Talent Imperative" study referenced in this article in The Pool, 87% of us are already working flexibly or would like to. That's quite a lot of people who would like a little less routine in their daily work-life. Why are we surprised? Is it because we still have that age old perception that if you're not at work for a set amount of time each day then you're not putting in the right amount of effort?
At Flagship we have recently been running sessions on productivity and time-stealers at work. It has quickly become evident that no one spends eight hours a day, seven days a week working solidly at their desk. Our brains are just not programmed for that level of concentration and, frankly, we would not perform at our best if we tried.
And this is why flexible working works. People are given the opportunity to work at the times their brains work best. As long as productivity levels are high and the work gets done, why should you need to be chained to your desk between 9-530 every day?
Breaking down these old fashioned 'clocking in and out' workplace traditions will be a big challenge, but its a challenge we must accept to ensure we all continue to be motivated at work, and perform at our best.
I believe the best way to do this is to remove 'flexible' from 'flexible working'.
If we are 'working' why do we need to say what time we are going to do it as long as we are on time and accountable for colleagues and deadlines. If we want it to become normal then why does it need to be distinguished from other work? If we're going to fully embrace a more flexible work-style, it's time we went all-in.
Recently, Mattison told The Guardian: “We’re still relying on the idea that normal is full-time, Monday to Friday, and part-time is what you get as a concession – because you asked in a clever way, or you’re so good that they wanted to keep you.” And that’s it – we’ve got to stop seeing flexible working as a favour or a bonus or tricking the system, even if we do admire our mothers, who faithfully worked within the system for 30 years, and feel guilty for not putting in the same sort of hours. Flexibility has got to be perceived as much a part of working life as Pret coffees and cheap wine on Friday evenings.