As recruitment specialists, we’re all too familiar with the changing attitudes towards flexible working. More and more businesses are now offering it as a perk, and it’s often one of the first questions a candidate will ask about a role. Seen – and often feared – by many employers as an opportunity for employees to work whenever they want, flexible working can be an absolute essential for many jobseekers.
When we conducted some employee engagement activity last year and asked our team what they would like more of in their working lives, we predicted that flexible working would be a common request, and it was. Our team indicated that they’d like less rigidity in their working structure.
From our experience, recruitment is an industry that thrives in a communal setting; a busy sales floor and a buzzing office environment creates the competitive nature of recruitment, which encourages employees to boost their performance. So while we wanted to do everything we could to make our team happy at work, we also wanted to find a way of doing that without upsetting the balance.
If consultants and resourcers were to work from home on a consistent basis, the element of teamwork that goes into successfully placing a candidate becomes seriously tested. The communication channels and the technology are there, but nothing can quite match the quality or efficiency of being able to talk to your colleagues across the office. It also risks employees blurring their work-life balance, which can negatively impact both their performance at work and their health.
Of course, there are benefits to flexible working too. It’s been proven that greater flexibility boosts levels of staff wellbeing, and that, in turn, is great for productivity and therefore the business as a whole. It comes down to creating a definition of flexible working that strikes the right balance for your organisation.
So we started by scrapping the definitions of flexible working already out there and focusing on what our team really wanted from their place of work. We don’t think working from home as a general concept is right for us and thankfully most of our staff agreed. What we do offer is flexibility around childcare arrangements, doctors’ appointments – the list goes on – so employees can find a better work-life balance.
We are in a results-driven industry where employees are rewarded for their performance, so in order to allow for greater flexibility, our attentions turned to output rather than input. While that means that we can loosen our limits on flexibility, allowing staff to finish early on a Friday or pop out of the office for an appointment as long as their work is covered or completed, it also puts a responsibility on us to suitably manage our people.
Recruitment is widely regarded as one of the most stressful industries to work in – it came second only to social care in a recent survey – so while those that are enjoying a successful period will benefit from this approach, we have to make sure we’re not turning a blind eye to those who are going through a rough patch. We keep a level playing field by encouraging all staff finish on time, rather than staying after hours to chase another placement – challenges can often be overcome with a fresh perspective in the morning.
We know from experience that some employers are totally averse to flexible working, while some candidates want total freedom in their roles. In most cases it seems as though what’s needed is a little give and take from both sides. Flexible working by its very definition must be flexible, meaning different approaches will work better for some businesses and industries more than others. It’s all about how you define it.