How flexible are you?

Parents and carers were given the legal right to request flexible working in 2002. From 2014 any employee with over 26 weeks’ continuous employment with their employer has the right to request flexible working. However according to a recent CIPD report, Megatrends: Flexible Working, the number of employees working flexibly has flat-lined since 2010.

Why not be flexible?

Apprehension and at times downright negativity about flexible working is not unusual. Requests to work fewer hours, compressed hours and/or working from home often provoke this response. This is particularly the case if the employee manages other employees. Employee visibility is the issue and managers think if they can’t see their staff, they don’t know they’re working. Managers question their employee’s honesty, convinced they will be ‘out shopping, or walking the dog when they should be working’.

Trust issues?

Anecdotally, it’s reported that some employers have banned mobile phones, personal emails and phone calls during working hours. Allegedly, some employers even time employee toilet breaks. Where does this lack of trust come from? Employers need consider if they expect employees to use mobile devices to deal with work outside of normal working hours. If they expect flexibility but don’t reciprocate due to a lack of trust, employee goodwill will wane.

Reciprocal flexibility works

Perhaps this is a bit extreme, but trusted flexibility can work both ways to the benefit of everyone. It just requires a bit of extra thought about how it can work. If employees want flexibility and their employer gives it to them, their engagement, loyalty and commitment will increase. If employers refuse requests, employees will ask why they should go the extra mile when the company isn’t prepared to do the same for them. They will be less motivated and may begin to ‘work to rule’ or look for a job elsewhere. I don’t think any employer would want that outcome, especially at a time when the ‘war for talent’ seems tougher than ever.

Managing flexible employees

Some jobs really can’t be done flexibly, but requests need to be considered properly. Managers are often concerned about managing less visible employees. However, if outcome-based objectives are set and the employee’s performance dips, it should be easy to address. It’s entirely possible that managers feel overstretched and feel they don’t have the time or energy to consider how it might work. But companies that provide flexibility will benefit from increased talent retention, engagement and productivity. At a time when there are reported skills shortages, surely it’s worth the effort?

If you would like help managing flexible working in your company, or support in dealing with a request, please do get in touch.

Blue Monday?

Apparently this coming Monday, 15th January 2018, is ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year.  January can be a tough month after the (hopefully) joyous Festive Period and a welcome break from work. But can we really pick one day out of the 31 in January, or the 365 in the year, and say that this coming Monday 15th January 2018 is the most depressing of all?

The science bit

The term Blue Monday was, so we’re told, invented by the marketing team at Sky Travel in 2005 in an attempt to encourage people to buy a holiday at a quiet time of year. There’s even a formula for calculating the date, which includes weather, debt, days ‘til payday, time since Christmas, resolutions broken. It also includes some feeling factors which somewhat compromise the ‘science bit’.

Resistance is not futile

There’s definitely a case for rebellion here. January is tough, but we shouldn’t be told how to feel on a particular day, should we? There are enough challenges to face in this fast-moving world, so let’s all resist this phenomenon! To help us, there’s even a website dedicated to encouraging positive acts on Blue Monday.

Blue at work

The Blue Monday phenomenon does have potential implications for businesses. There may be many people who believe the hype and expect to feel blue on Monday 15th January 2018. And purely for this reason, they may succumb to the negative feelings Blue Monday is designed to exploit.

Be part of the solution

What can employers do to counter these negative feelings? We live in a time when businesses are struggling and ‘austerity’ feels like it has become part of our culture. So how can you motivate a workforce who are feeling the pinch and maintain positivity at work?

There’s no easy, one-size fits all answer. People are motivated in different ways, whether it’s hitting advertising targets and achieving bonus, or receiving accolades for good performance.

Top tips

Here are 5 top tips that should support the rebellion against Blue Monday:

  • Spend time getting to know your team as individuals. Find out hat they enjoy, what motivates them, how they like to be recognised.
  • Make sure you diarise regular 1-1s with your team for the year. Show your commitment to them through the giving of your time.
  • Give thought to what you can do to help them achieve their career aspirations. It may be development, training, work-shadowing, job swapping, coaching and/or action planning. There are many possibilities to consider.
  • Start the year with a team meeting to share ideas and make a plan for the year ahead to which everyone can contribute.
  • Consider a physical activity, to get those endorphins flowing, maybe a team walk at lunchtime, or a sponsored activity which everyone can engage in.

These top tips should help to create a positive working environment where employees can flourish at any time of year. Developing an open, inclusive work place where everyone feels valued will definitely help to build this positivity.

So, while these top tips won’t necessarily stop people from being conned into feeling Blue on this coming Monday, it might help in the longer term.

If you would like to find out more about what you can do to build a positive working environment, we can help, so do get in touch with Helpful HR.