The right to request flexible working hours is no longer reserved for parents and carers in UK workplaces. Acknowledging the broader productivity and morale benefits, government has now extended that opportunity to everyone who’s been employed for more than six months.
Companies should approach this change in the working pattern as a real positive for the team and for the organisation as a whole. However, it can and does bring up all kinds of doubts and apprehensions in people, both employees and managers. Trust can be a big potential stumbling block. An employee has to trust their line manager won’t forget them, and the company has to trust the employee to get the work done without supervision. But handled in the right way, that is respectful of all parties, and flexible working is the way forward for the 21st century business model.
One of the things any organisation can, and should, do prior to this change being implemented is to carry out a personality profile of the people concerned. I run these for organisations and they are a brilliantly effective way for managers to really know who they are line managing and for employees to appreciate their personal challenges within the workplace.
For instance, a top right-brain dominant person would see flexible working as a great way to be more spontaneous with their working pattern, with the ability to start working earlier and, therefore, being more productive. These people are also great at multi tasking so would not suffer with the balancing act of working from home. The possible challenge for them is that they love being with people and are great at personal interaction, so they will need to be supported with the potential isolation aspect.
Bottom right-brain dominant people would see flexible working as enabling them to be more committed to the organisation as they would have in place what they need to do their job. And, possibly, they would be able to respond to colleagues and clients more effectively as less travel time means using less energy. Again, their possible challenge would come from being isolated because these people are great team players and thrive in the group environment. So regular team meetings to ensure they continue to feel connected would be essential.
Top left-brain dominant people would actually prefer the flexible work option as they work best on their own with very little distraction. So the isolation aspect would work in their favour. These people are very process driven, so they would quickly devise their own process to ensure the method of working supports them. The possible challenge here would be to ensure they do not like working on their own too much and to encourage them to join in group and team opportunities when they arise.
Bottom left-brain dominant people would also work well with this option. They are very organised and detail focussed and so would be able to organise their work space at home and their agenda for the day’s work brilliantly. They would need very little hands-on line management. Again, the possible challenge would be to keep them involved with team activities and not let them slide into the comfort of working in isolation.
Once an organisation fully appreciates, works with and honours a person’s personality type, it becomes easier to empower that person to evolve into the best version of themselves they can be. It is one of the responsibilities of an employer to ensure they do not line manage with a ‘blanket’ approach but do work with the natural strengths of individuals.
Flexible working is a fabulous step forward for any organisation, and if approached with the right mindset and prior thought to putting the correct training in place, it can create an environment of effectiveness and productivity.