Banging The Drum For Truly Flexible Working

There’s a quiet revolution happening in working practices, which last week peaked with a bill put forward in the House of Commons by Conservative MP Helen Whately.

In her 10 minute Rule Bill, Whately put forward that flexible working should be the default position for all employees, rather than it being up to individuals to request it from their employers.

But her intervention hasn’t come out of the blue. Her 10 minutes was prompted by, and referenced, the work of Anna Whitehouse (aka Mother Pukka), founder of the Flex Appeal campaign, and well-known social media influencer.

Whitehouse has vehemently banged the drum for flexible working since leaving her role as a copywriter, when her employer refused her request to change her working hours, which she put forward after being reprimanded by her daughter’s nursery for a late pick up.

Many people reading this won’t fully appreciate the true scale of the challenge and the struggle faced by Whitehouse to make a change.

Lots of employers, managers, and team leaders will I’m sure be thinking while they read this how liberal, flexible and accommodating their organisation or company is. ‘We’ll let people work from home once in a while if the washing machine breaks down’, or ‘We’ll often let people leave a bit early if they have a dentist appointment.’ In the words of Whitehouse: “Our employers are oafs: unimaginative, overly cautious, and unwilling to think beyond the 9-5”. Strong words indeed.

Whitehouse’s campaign, and its prominence in Parliament, is a wake-up call to those employers who are arguably stuck in the dark ages. Technology and the lifestyles of the modern, hard-working and committed employee are such that the door to truly flexible working isn’t just ajar, it’s been kicked wide open by people who are fed up working while wearing a straightjacket.

That it has to have such acerbic rhetoric as its context is sad, but the tide is slowly turning against those outdated views.

A compelling part of Whitehouse’s campaign highlights that flexible working can help to alleviate social care pressures of looking after a family member in need. But even for workers without this, a request for a flexible approach to working patterns shouldn’t need to be justified. It’s no longer a luxury, or even a formal ‘benefit’ – it’s expected. But it’s also massively appreciated.

At Zen, the team is empowered – and trusted – to work flexibly, adjusting hours to suit lives outside of work. And we’re not talking the tick-box work from home one day a week. Harriet, our Content Writer, is in the office one day a week, and works remotely for the rest of her hours, which she expertly fulfils while juggling childcare and other personal commitments.

Our Relationship Manager Guy arrives in the office early and leaves early to beat the traffic on his commute to Stoke-on-Trent, with clients knowing they can always reach him on the mobile.

Relationship Manager Jen has taken advantage of Zen’s ‘The Fifth Day’, which gives employees the option to compact their hours into a four-day working week, and enjoy an extra day off.

And I have trialled truly flexible working – whether that be the time or the location at which I work. This has seen me working from home, from a local café or from co-working spaces. I’ve worked in the morning and the evening, freeing up the afternoon for swimming and the carpet fitters. The end result? I prioritise work better, with less distractions. I’m more productive and feel mentally and physically healthier. Am I missed? I keep in touch with colleagues more now than before, and am better able to filter demands on my time.

As you’ll know, we’re all about pushing boundaries at Zen and so doff our cap to Mother Pukka and the Flex Appeal campaign.

We’re always looking for new ways to go above and beyond though – so let us know what you think and your ideas, or perhaps we can inspire you…? We’re all ears.

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