08 March 2019
Our community looks at how workplace culture has changed
The world of work has significantly changed over the years and people are increasing searching for ways to find a better balance between their home and working lives. In recognition of this we asked the Governance and Compliance and the Core community to reflect upon their experiences of flexible working.
Overwhelmingly (92%), of the companies we surveyed were offering flexible working arrangements. There was variation between whether this was a formal or informal basis. One responder said; ‘I am the Company Secretary of a regulated financial services firm and I have complete freedom to work where and when I need to – I generally work from home at least 50% of the time. I am judged by the quality of my work and by my results and not by being present in an office. During extremely busy periods I expect to work into the evening or even at weekends, which is a relatively small sacrifice to make for the flexibility and for not having to face the misery of a daily commute. I have an excellent team who are mature enough and professional enough to “get it” and to enjoy such flexibility’ whilst another said; ‘our company does offer informal flexible working arrangements, but it is inconsistently applied across different business areas. We are reviewing our formal flexible working policy to bring some consistency to the arrangements‘.
The issue of consistency across application was one that was raised several times, when asked what potential drawbacks there are to flexible working, one responder said: ‘The biggest drawback to flexible working in our business is the inconsistency of application. Some colleagues in 1 business area can take advantage of the arrangements, others cannot. This depends to a great extent on the manager’s attitude to flexible working and whether they can see the benefits of it. Our company is very traditional and the transition to more modern working arrangements is a slow one. Moving to a more adult relationship with colleagues, rather than one of a parent and child is slow and in some cases painful; however in the business areas that it is successfully used it is reaping benefits’.
The other drawbacks stemmed mostly from logistical issues with one asking ‘does everybody have the broadband capacity to be able to do it?’ and another claiming ‘you need to have a robust and effective IT system and support for remote working and online meetings and good line manager relationships’.
Although flexible working is widespread, the meaning of the term differs from company to company. The majority (76%) offer a combination of flexible working solutions whilst remote working (11%) is the most popular single choice for firms, followed by part-time working (5%). One responder claimed ‘it’s 2019, this should be standard – remote working and flexi-time, part-time and also condensed hours are available’.
A variety of reasons were given as to the benefits of flexible arrangements, but the biggest single issue (11%) was that it increased staff retention. Overall, for team building and productivity to thrive it was said that a flexible approach is also needed from management or as one responder said: ‘Flexible working (particularly on an informal basis) requires robust management and managers and employees have to understand that each case is individual and must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. In some circumstances, business need dictates that flexible working cannot be permitted and, if not managed appropriately, this can affect productivity adversely’
If you are a company secretary or governance professional at a leading UK business, and you would like to take part in or comment on future surveys, email email@example.com