The never ending debate on flexi working – trust is key!

by Abi Blank March 5th, 2018

It’s 2018, and when it comes to communication, science has basically invented magic. We can access our work, our hobbies, and each other, with a few taps on the portable supercomputer tucked in in our pocket. It has never been easier for people to work flexibly or remotely.

We have also, rightly, come to expect more from our employers than a desk, salary and 20-year tenure. We move around more quickly, recognise the importance of a decent work/life balance, and consider lifestyle benefits almost as much as salary when considering a new job. The possibility of flexible working is something that comes up most frequently in discussions with candidates, particularly at more senior levels.

If you’ve spent any time scrolling through re-posted memes on LinkedIn, you will already know that we spend at least a third of our lives working (and that’s if you only work 40 hours a week, which is basically part time in some industries). Spending this third of your life adhering to a rigid insistence on 9-6 office hours and a bums-on-seats attitude is very frustrating. Frustrating for job seekers, but also for us as recruiters. Simply allowing candidates to adjust their hours slightly, or agreeing on a home working day once a week, would significantly widen the candidate pool for every single role that comes across our desk.

So why is flexi working, which costs nothing to implement and vastly improves quality of life for employees, still a bit too much of a stretch for some companies?

Although it’s not practically possible for every company to offer flexi working, most companies could implement it to some degree quite easily. We all know the benefits of flexi working – improved staff retention, reduced absenteeism, increased feelings of contentment with work, and an increased feeling of trust between employer and employees.

It’s this last point – trust – which is the main barrier to flexi work (practicality notwithstanding). To successfully implement it, there must be a degree of trust that the employee won’t take the mickey, for example by slacking off outside agreed core hours, letting their job share partner take on all the work, or wasting time at home when they should be working. But let’s be honest, all these objections assume that employees have the work ethic of an underachieving teenager. It’s much more realistic to expect people to take pride in their work, and reap the benefits of a flexible work arrangement while still producing the same amount of work to the same standard, or better.