Flexible Working Policies

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					Flexible Working Policies
In this highly competitive, fast moving, global world, organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain good

staff. The stars of the working world are able to pick and choose amongst employers and are certainly attracted by high salaries

and other financial benefits. But not all organisations are able to offer competitive salaries. Do these poor relations have to

make do with lower level performers or risk losing their own high achievers to wealthier employers?

Luckily the answer to these questions is 'NO'. Or at least, the answer is 'it depends on what else they have to offer'.

People choose and leave jobs for many different reasons - love, interest, passion, opportunities, career development and

increasingly for flexibility. Organisations that recognise the need for individuals to balance their job or career with their desired

lifestyle are becoming increasingly attractive to potential employees.

Organisations are also recognising that people leave jobs for many reasons. Pay, passion and promotion may stop some people

from leaving, but evidence shows that this is not enough for others and what they truly desire is the chance to work in a way

that compliments the demands of their life outside of work.

In other words, it's not only the big corporate organisations who can offer the highest salaries that can attract and retain stars.

Minimising the work-family conflict experienced by employees can go a long way to making your organisation appealing to the

best of the best.

Perceptions of flexible working policies

Introducing a flexible working policy into the organisation is a good start, but is having a written agreement to say that

individuals can work part time, remotely etc., enough to reduce the conflict between work and family life? As business

psychologists, we would argue that it is not and would even suggest that in some ways flexible working policies aren't worth the

paper they are written on.

Research has found that people's perceptions of the usefulness of a flexible working policy depend very much on the support

they believe they get from their employer for working flexibly. Indeed, the individual's perception of how the employer

responds to flexible working can actually be more important than the policy itself.

Employers often find that despite investing in the development and design of a flexible working policy, the take-up of flexible

working practices by individuals is low. There are a number of reasons for this including unspoken rules, peer pressure and

perceived negative consequences within the organisation. In some organisations, the perception of how committed employees

are to their work can be based on how long they spend in the office, and showing that they prioritise their work over other

commitments. The positive consequences of this demonstration of commitment range from eligibility for promotion, to pay
rises and being chosen for challenging and interesting projects.
In some cases, even taking leave (regardless of the reason) can be linked to reduced career prospects. In these cases,

employees could be forgiven for thinking that signing up for schemes to improve their work-life balance could lead to a

negative impact on their perceived commitment to their work. They could also be forgiven for thinking that flexible working

policies really aren't worth the paper they are written on.

Management support

One of the strongest influences on the success of flexible working schemes is the support provided by managers. There are

many ways management can influence the culture in the workplace, however, the most important thing a manager can do is to

lead by example. By living the value of flexible working themselves, they can have an enormous influence on the rest of the


People who see their employers actively supporting efforts to reduce the conflict between work and family life tend to report

higher job-satisfaction, along with greater commitment and loyalty to the organisation.

Those who receive support from their managers also show a drop in work-family conflict. Supportive supervisors are invaluable

in paying attention to potential conflicts within their team, and can work closely to overcome issues. Simple things like being

flexible when it comes to scheduling work and rearranging priorities to accommodate a family crisis can make all the difference.

So what can you do?

o Pay attention to how employees feel about their work-life balance rather than how many hours they are working

o Schedule meetings earlier in the day so they don't run over the official office hours

o Set appropriate deadlines with enough time to get work done inside normal working hours

o Schedule training within agreed work hours so that part time members of staff can attend

o Permit flexibility in the scheduling of work

o Rearrange priorities to accommodate an unexpected family crisis

As competition for the stars of this world heightens, there is an increasing need for organisations to support their employees in

achieving balance between their work and non work commitments. However, the introduction of flexible working policies is not

enough. It's true that the modern working culture, where nothing seems to stand still, will be hard to interrupt. But if a re-

adjustment of perceptions and culture can be embraced at all levels of an organisation, then there's no reason why even the

poorest of relations can compete for the stars of the working world.

Mike Idziaszczyk

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