Rachel Smith is PPC Manager at Glowworm Digital, paid search specialists. She shares the two-way benefits allowing staff to work flexibly can have – and that it’s not just for parents. After all, she argues, a relaxed and comfortable employee is a more productive one.
Who can benefit from flexible working?
“All employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers,” say Government guidelines.
There tends to be a misconception that flexible working is just for parents or carers. Why? Everyone can benefit from flexible working, especially employers.
Who doesn’t love cramming onto a packed tram at 7:30am, five days a week? The University of the West of England discovered that every extra minute commuting to work reduces job time satisfaction, increases strain and worsens mental health.
The Telegraph reported that, in the UK, the average commute has increased from 48 minutes to an hour – each way. If staff could start work at different times to avoid this crippling commute, work would be completed quicker, and with more gusto.
If the chance for an employee to work a single day from home was possible and offered, that means two hours a day are saved. If done just once a week, that’s more than four days worth of free time given back to your staff each year. And that is priceless.
Why attitudes need to change
Of course, this could be implemented more easily across small companies, and the industry being worked in is a deciding factor. However, 80% of jobs involve sitting at a desk in the UK. So what’s the solution for bigger companies? Treat each department as its own entity and go from there. Then go and talk to other departments and come to a mutually beneficial solution.
The key thing needed is trust. It’s understandable why some might be reluctant to offer this solution – in their careers, everyone’s come across someone who takes liberties and ruins something good for everyone else.
However, employers themselves are actually the ones who stand to benefit the most from a flexible working solution, so why not give it a try? You can always pull someone back up on it if they start taking advantage of it.
At Glowworm Digital, we have five staff members: four full-time and one part-time. Two of those staff members happen to be parents, but all staff members are given the choice of flexible working.
Staff can choose to work from home, but obviously, all critical meetings must be attended or worked around, and there are core days during which all staff are present. To aid staff in this, they are given a laptop they can access all their files and software from. Plus, you don’t have to be in an office to create new campaigns, generate reports or conduct bid optimisation.
Clients’ campaigns are growing, productivity is up, and everyone is motivated because of the all-important work/life balance.
When it comes to the parents in the agency, if they come in a little later because of the school run, have a school play to attend in the afternoon, or need to pick up their sick child from nursery, that’s OK! But there are advantages for all staff too. You can attend appointments, or have a little lie-in after a late finish the night before, so you’re raring to go the next day.
The impact of flexible working
Flexible working not only benefits a company and its employees, it benefits their clients as well. We can optimise paid search campaigns just as well from our kitchen table or sofa as we can from within our office. Being relaxed and comfortable helps us be more creative and focused, which can only have a positive impact on what we do.
The moral of the story is, if you’re organised in your work and keep channels of communication open with colleagues and clients, you can have a successful flexible working culture.
Just think – that email that needs to be sent by 9am on Monday; does it have to be generated, written and sent in an office by someone who’s been stuck on the train for an hour, and is already in a negative frame of mind? Or could it be done by someone at their kitchen table, having avoided the commute and feeling refreshed? As long as the work is done to a high standard and KPIs are smashed, what’s the difference?
In the UK, we actually work longer hours than other European countries, but are in fact less productive. Research has proven that companies who offer a flexible working solution have happier and more motivated staff, save money, and have much greater productivity levels.