Making Work, Work

How many hours are being lost in your organisation due to un-flexible working practices? That’s the question we have been putting out there since the launch of our #mymillionhours campaign towards the end of last year. We calculated that we have a total of 1 million hours available in our pool of legal talent. With that in mind, it’s easy for us to see the competitive advantages of flexible working. Employing flexible working practices have increased productivity and given organisations the competitive edge over others.

Outside of our own clients, organisations that are citing flexible working practices as a direct cause of an uptick in productivity include Lloyds Banking Group, where, in a Future of Work Institute report conducted in 2012, 66% of line managers and colleagues said they considered that flexibility improved efficiency and productivity. Cisco was another example from the study detailing significant productivity gains.

One of the main arguments for flexible working practices in business is the wellbeing and happiness of employees. But there are a whole host of reasons why flexible working provides a competitive advantage…

Individual productivity and morale

Starting with the main argument – flexible and remote ways of working allows employees to do what is required of them in their role in a manner that fits with other priorities in their day to day lives, as well as getting proper rest and recuperation time throughout the year. Happier, healthier employees naturally have more energy and enthusiasm for the tasks at hand, as well as reduced absenteeism due to sickness. However, there is another aspect to this – flexible working shouldn’t just be about avoiding burnout or working around obstacles to being in the office, it’s about fostering an entire working culture that treats everyone as individuals. Flexible working practices show trust, understanding and supportive attitudes towards all. Rather than feeling pushed out or a burden on the organisation, with flexible working culture open to all people feel more included and valued within an organisation.

Business overhead and efficiency savings

Our rapidly evolving technological landscape and globalised economy means that businesses have to be more agile and streamlined than ever. Every business of every size should also be considering its energy usage on a daily basis as part of a commitment to protecting the environment on which we all depend. Moving to mobile devices, shared office space etc. can dramatically cut down on wastage.

Optimisation of labour

By renouncing the culture of presenteeism in favour of a flexible model, organisations can better plan labour resources required at any given time, thus ensuring that no resource is underused or overburdened and everyone is working on exactly what needs to be done and is not losing time through travel, unnecessary meetings and the need to show face late into the evening just to impress the boss. When those pressing tasks are out of the way, the hours gained can be used to look to the next challenge, or allow you to spend more time on creative ideas and ways to grow the business – the bigger picture.

Bigger talent pool

By employing freelance, part time and contract staff your talent pool becomes broader. Re-activated talent makes up a huge portion of our legal workforce – many who had found it difficult to get back into work due to a culture of presenteeism have been able to take their career to the next level, and their clients have benefited immensely as a result! Latent talent is a huge cost to our economy – it’s high time organisations tapped into it to reap the rewards.

 

Making Work, Work

Without access to flexible working, a large pool of knowledge and talent is going to waste. This is costing us greatly, stifling growth and impacting workplace wellbeing.

For all the progress made in communication technology and digital working platforms, and for all the conversations on work life balance and the importance of workplace wellbeing, it seems society is still attached to a culture of long office hours and presenteeism. Women’s careers continue to stall due to a lack of options for flexible working, so say the findings of recent in depth studies into flexible working and the progression of women in the corporate workplace.

A report compiled by Digital Mums in association with Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) found 60% of mothers with children under 18 do not have access to flexible working. 64% of returning mothers found that their skills were compromised in some way in order to find a flexible job. The findings indicate that women are still finding it hard to return to work, and feel unable to progress as a result of career breaks, maternity leave and family commitments.

The Women in the Workplace 2016 study looked even more in depth into women’s career development and presence in the workplace in corporate America, finding that women are still falling behind men on the corporate ladder, with companies struggling to put their commitment to gender equality into practice for a number of reasons, including concerns about positive discrimination. And where flexible working programmes are offered to parents, it was found that 61% of employees worry that working part-time will hurt their career, with 42% believing taking a leave of absence or sabbatical will do the same.

Why should so many women have to compromise their experience and skillset in order to find work that suits them? Why are employers and managers stretching every hour given, instead of calling on the expertise and skills they need when they need them? Why are there pools of latent talent still being left untapped? These are the questions we still find ourselves asking of the legal sector, and indeed many other industries beyond.

What happens when we increase the opportunities for people to work flexibly and remotely, when different life stages mean that they cannot be tied to the office and commute from dawn to dusk? It’s not a stretch to say that productivity is boosted and everyone’s work life balance stands to improve. The real, tangible benefits of flexible working and of changing traditional approaches to legal consultancy can be seen every day at Obelisk. From talent reactivated after a lengthy career break, to those changing to freelance remote work as life priorities change, the talent and expertise is there ready and waiting for the opportunity to take on new challenges, to find work that fits with their lives and fulfils their sense of purpose.

The CEBR also calculated that widespread access to flexible working could add 66 million hours more work per week, with an economic output boost to the UK of approximately £62.5 billion. But the benefits go even further than economic gain. It is not sustainable for business owners to be pulled on all directions when they need the time and headspace to create, shape and grow their business. Nor is it sustainable for employees who will not feel valued or incentivised by restrictive and lengthy hours expected of them, when there are people with the knowledge and talent available. Allowing people the time to concentrate their efforts on their core responsibilities and the bigger picture of their business, rather than fighting daily fires such as contract resolutions and other areas of time draining micro-management can change our overworking, long-office-hours culture for good, for the benefit of everyone’s wellbeing and personal growth, as well as the growth of the economy as a whole.

It’s time we all asked ourselves: What would we do with #MyMillionHours?