Can you have your cake and eat it too?
At The Point.1888 we are extremely passionate about driving the flexi-time debate and without doubt a revolution is coming.
With companies such as PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), Unilever, and PR Network moving towards a “flexible working” schedule, it seems that even the most reputable of organisations are taking the health and consideration of their workers much more seriously. This means employees have more control over when they work and even where they work.
The right to request flexible working was introduced by section 47 of the Employment Act in 2002, but the revolution towards “ultraflexibility” in the workforce has only just begun. In fact, LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report – which surveys 5,100 hiring professionals – saw that 75% of those surveyed in the UK consider flexible working will be ‘very or extremely important’ in the future. Another 84% acknowledged that it helped employees maintain a better work-life balance, and 72% agreed it makes their workforce happier.
PR Network is an ideal standard for this concept. Launched in 2005 with flexibility as the primary goal in mind, mothers Georgina Blizzard and Nicky Imrie decided they needed to adopt a drastically different working pattern. Now working three-day weeks, the archetypical stress and pressure of public relations is eased by the blurring of home and work at PR Network. If 7 out of 10 Brits take less than an hour for lunch just to avoid leaving late, could flexible working solve our problems?
My company, The Point.1888, a brand licensing agency, is another firm offering flexible working. However, unlike most, we are ‘ultra-flexible’. Our employees are able to enjoy unlimited days of annual leave, and are able to work wherever and whenever, as long as they have the right work ethic, and finish the designated tasks. Whether their reason is to avoid rush hour, or to go pick up their kids, or simply the fact that they’re more productive at night, we like to think we’re a leading example of putting life first.
In my view work doesn’t work as it needs to, especially for parents.
In a recent article in Love Money, 30-year old digital producer, Heather Ferguson, gave an interview on the improvements she’d seen as a result of having a flexible work lifestyle, saying her relationship with her employer has “improved, and [she] can be trusted to work independently”, arguably fostering a closer relationship with her employer and a clearer line of communication regarding her individual needs. The “flexible working and trust make you feel you want to work harder and do more because they’re giving you more” she said.
I’ve certainly seen that to be the case with my team.
In fact, a two-year study involving randomly assigned groups found a 13% productivity increase and turnover decreased by 50% among those working at home by taking shorter breaks and fewer sick days.
Anxieties around appearance, office culture, and the pressure of socialising and monitoring of work can be extremely stressful for some employees entering the workforce. A flexible work schedule can massively reduce this.
What’s more, it proves the company is accommodating to the employees’ emotional needs, or time-commitments. Employees could be happy to take on contracts that also fit into their requirements, e.g. short, intense ad hoc projects or long-term projects that still require them to work shorter days.
Gone are the days when men go to work and women stay at home once they’ve had kids. Of mothers in the UK, 65.5% are looking for part-time work. It is unclear whether the remaining 34.5% are unemployed, or if some of them return to a full-time job. However, flexible working could abolish the debate all together: maybe you can have your cake and eat it too. Or, in this case, work from home when your child is sick; pick your child up early from school and finish work at home; and feel less shame in not being in a “traditional” work environment.
More than this, it’s not about eradicating a workplace environment but accommodating the people who fill it up. Gaining employees’ respect, trusting employers, and increasing happiness at work comes in many different forms: I believe constraining them into a working pattern that doesn’t fit their lifestyle or needs is worse for health and productivity than allowing them more freedom and breaks.
I’ve never really understood the phrase; “you can’t have your cake and eat it” Honestly what is the point of a cake if you can’t eat it. I don’t really like cake so it’s irrelevant to me anyway.
I prefer; “if you want cake, eat cake, just not too much of it”
Ultraflexibility is the answer.