Flexible working is focused working

As the newest senior member of the Articulate team, I’m excited to be writing my first blog here. Today I want to talk about flexible working and why, when you get it right, it’s a game changer for the business and the employee. As a working mother, I had accepted the fact that I can’t have it all. To succeed at work, I needed to sacrifice time I wanted to be spending with my young family and vice versa. To focus on my situation though is doing a disservice to the flexible working conversation. It’s not just about working mothers, most people (in fact 87% in a recent UK survey, as reported in the Telegraph) would prefer to work flexibly for a wide range of reasons.

Flexible working means different things to different people. We’ve all been in those roles where it just means you work every waking hour. The “flexible” bit just refers to the fact that thanks to your mobile device you can work everywhere; in the car, on the bus, at the gym, out with friends, in bed (particularly depressing). But this isn’t what it should mean, and it certainly doesn’t mean that here at Articulate London. It should be about getting the work done in the hours you are contracted for, where and when best suits your working style. Obviously, there are always client calls and meetings which will structure the day (although an additional benefit of being set up to work flexibly, means I can easily respond to meeting requests from international clients, and collaborate with virtual teams, in their time zone). But outside of that structured time, those “thinking” hours – the time spent working out how to approach a client challenge and drafting good copy – doesn’t need to be done sat in an office at a set time of day. In fact, the chance of me producing my best in that environment is slim. We’re all different though, and some of us need that buzz of the office and colleague engagement for motivation. Others flourish when we have a looming deadline and absolute silence (that’s me).

Don’t get me wrong though, I certainly wouldn’t change the time I spent working in an office. It’s pretty hard to beat the pace of learning you get in those early years from seeing how those around you operate first hand – it’s really the only way to gain the wider context to what’s being asked of you. It’s only at this later stage of my career that flexible working is coming into its own. And clearly a flexible approach to work routine doesn’t work for all roles; my colleagues who are focused on journalist engagement for example need their hours to mirror (as much as possible) those of the influencers they are working with, and so on.

So, I’ve found a role that allows me to work flexibly and now, it’s on me. I need to organize my time strictly and focus, really focus, during the hours I have allotted to work. Sometimes that’s in the evening, sometimes first thing in the morning, and sometimes its 9-5 in our London City office. But once I started planning my work around other aspects of life that I don’t want to miss, it’s as if I suddenly had more time. For me that’s time to do the school run a couple of times a week and take part in early evening family life. For others it might be caring for an elderly parent or adhering to a triathlon training plan. It’s about using technology to bring us lifestyle advantage. Why can’t we have a bit longer during the day to do those things that give us a sense of wellbeing, (the natural output of work/life balance in my opinion)?

Brilliantly, it’s not just employees that are enjoying the benefits of this modern approach to working life. A global survey conducted by Vodafone last year showed that businesses who allow staff to work flexibly are seeing higher levels of engagement and loyalty from employees. I’m interested in the reasons why. My theory is that your relationship with an employer who allows you to work flexibly is much deeper than in a traditional working environment. A high level of trust is inherent, and it’s a trust that on no account do you want to break because the personal gain (or loss if it doesn’t work out) is so high. Therefore, those hours you are working are more focused than ever before, focused on producing the best quality and achieving client results.