Granted, many people would rather talk about that other word than give flexible working its due consideration, but let’s face it: like it or not, adjusting the 9 to 5 office work culture would make a big difference to women employment numbers. And the talent pool would exponentially multiply.
Companies that “get it” are striving hard to accommodate people’s (mostly women’s at this point) desire to work in a less rigid pattern. As recently printed in an IFLR publication, even law firms have started adjusting their office culture to allow their (female) talent to meet the job’s requirements in an adjusted work environment. Here are some examples.
The sky is the limit
One firm reported that one third of all its partners work flexibly. This is a result of having introduced a policy three years ago that allowed everyone (not just women) to apply for flexible work arrangements after having worked at the firm for six months. As to what kind of flexible working arrangements were possible, that is left entirely up to the applicant. The main consideration in facilitating flexible working is ensuring that the business’ needs are met, and applicants are free to propose how they might do this as part of their proposal to work flexibly.
Not a women’s issue
Role models are an important aspect of encouraging and nurturing agile working. Another firm reported that its senior partner works in a flexible arrangement and holds himself out as a role model to others. This way, people with needs beyond motherhood can take advantage of the arrangements and flexible working becomes a talent management tool rather than a women’s issue.
Being seen as an employer that encourages a flexible work structure is also an important aspect of agile working. This firm advertises all their external jobs as flexible so that all potential candidates are informed of the flexible work culture that is a main theme in their employment ethos.
Accommodating personal needs
Retaining talent goes beyond getting the needs of the company satisfied; talented people need employers to be considerate to their personal requirements, as well. One firm explains that, having understood this, it has been able to accommodate employees in a number of unusual requests, including having to work abroad for a while or even finishing their studies in a different jurisdiction (which required a prolonged period of paid leave). It’s these type of mutually-beneficial relationships that builds trust and loyalty within a company, thus enabling the organisation to get the most from its talent.
Parting with the traditional approach to work culture is the main common denominator to all these forward-thinking employers. People say that only certain types of jobs are suitable for flexible work. To those people I say “you haven’t been creative enough in coming up with a workable solution.” It’s time to recognise that the traditional approach to work is no longer good enough for today’s and tomorrow’s work force, so companies have to adjust, break the mould, think out of the box, and be themselves more flexible institutions. After all, the world is changing faster than ever, and those companies that are willing to adapt their approach to work are going to be rewarded by that changing environment.