Today is UN International Day of Families. The UN recognises families because they are the basis on which people flourish.
A family can mean different things to different people but whatever family means to your employees it is important to them. Employees are supported by their family. Supported employees are more likely to be happy, productive and efficient employees, so it should be important to managers to ensure that their employees feel their workplace is family friendly. But what is a family friendly work place?
Work places have an increasing number of policies to encourage family friendly working practises including leave, flexibility over hours and location of work. However, in my experience, the challenge with flexible working is rarely with the policy but with its implementation. When considering whether a business is truly family friendly you need to look at the integration and consistency of practice not just the theory!
So how can we ensure that the good intentions of HR and senior management are implemented on a day to day basis.
- Role Modelling-there is a lot of talk about flexibility having a ceiling. That it is fine for more junior members of staff but it cannot be expected at a senior level. Senior managers need to show that it is quality and not quantity of work that is valued and live their own companies' policies on flexible working. From a risk perspective not allowing flexible working at a senior level or flexible workers struggling to progress can cause a raft of problems.
- Trial periods - managers who have little experience of flexible working can be nervous of agreeing new arrangements - HR should support managers to trial possible options to demonstrate how they can work.
- Consistency - all flexible working requests should be copied to HR/ER and results of application should be tracked including the use of trial periods.
- Ask questions - as a manager, if you genuinely cannot agree to the proposal, for a legitimate reason, try and find out which bit of a request is most important to the applicant to see if you can agree to that part. Ask open questions to try and find the reason behind the request and try and come to a solution that works for everyone.
- Demonstrate family friendly attitudes beyond flexible working - for example extending benefits to families and childcare assistance.
- Highlight the benefits- some managers consider a request for flexible working as an employee asking for more. Try and highlight to your colleagues that there can be huge benefits to the business as well as the individual. For example, in the days of expensive office space, if someone works from home that frees up space for other employees, employees who work flexibly are more likely to stay in the organisation and more likely to be productive.
- Highlight examples of success - this can be internal to your business or external and if you need an example use us! Byrne·dean is the most flexible place I have ever worked and yet the quality of delivery from all its employees far surpasses delivery of teams who hardly leave their office buildings.
Finally, the main reason that managers are reluctant to agree to flexible working or complain about flexible working is nothing to do with the actual flexible working arrangement. It is because there is a lack of trust in the employee/manager relationship. Every good workplace relationship needs trust but trust is particularly important for flexible working and it goes both ways. If you find yourself reluctant to agree to a flexible working request because you do not trust that someone will work when you are not watching them- the problem is not with the flexible working it is with the manager/employee relationship as a whole. As a manager you need to build trust with all your employees. If you need help with that let us know.