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"We are seeing the success of this [maternity coaching] programme, as we have a return rate from maternity leave of 90%"

Emily Midwood, Deutsche Bank, HR Magazine, 18 May 2011

Making Flexible Working Work – Three Key Elements

What is the secret to making a success of flexible working? We examine the view of Emma Spitz, Head of Maternity Coaching, that trust, teamwork and technology are all you need to be flying high.


I believe that I work in the ultimate flexible company. Every one of us works flexibly in different ways. In a model that I believe reflects the future of work, working remotely is what we do, working less in school holidays is common practice and logging on after the family has gone to bed is quite honestly the norm. Because this way of working is almost second nature to us we don’t always stop to reflect about why it works for us but not for many of the individuals we coach. They can sometimes struggle with how to make flexible working acceptable to their employers, teams and even themselves.

Having supported many individuals who have secured flexible work arrangements I have built up a good picture of those instances where it is going to succeed and those where the individual is going to find it an uphill battle and struggle to work in any way other than the conventional norm. This must be considered as we look to a future where flexible working becomes more common.

In my view, three factors ensure the success of a flexible work pattern and this is where the 3 T’s model comes into play:
3Ts model

Understanding and ensuring you have the 3Ts in place is the first step anyone should take if considering working differently. If these three elements exist then as a manager you should be confident that you can embrace your employee’s new and different way of working rather than be fearful of it.

Trust

You need to have an established track record and credibility with your employer before you ask to work differently. They need to trust that you will maintain a level of output appropriate to the amount of time you are working. However, individuals who work flexibly have been proven to be more productive. Their focus and desire to prove themselves ensures that their output exceeds expectations.

Having a culture which rewards merit and skill rather than presenteeism will enable this trust. Equally, to enable you to be effective you need to be given the autonomy to control your own time and to decide what is critical to achieve.

You need to be bold and open about your flexible work pattern and be a visible role model for others to trust. As a manager you should expect the best from those who work flexibly and trust that they want to ensure their arrangement is a success.

Team

I recently coached an individual who has worked flexibly for just under a year. She is delighted with her move to working reduced hours and said the reason for her success has been the attitude of her team. If your team supports your arrangements and is willing to focus only on the quality of your output you are far more likely to make it work.

Adopting a team coverage model is helpful. For clients to know that they can talk to other members of your team in your absence is re-assuring and demonstrates a high level of service. If you are working flexibly you need at times to be able to delegate upwards, sideways and downwards and to know that others are willing to cover for you without resentment. To reward these “team behaviours” is important, as is creating a mutual respect of individuals’ needs and an overall desire for the whole team to do well. Having shared goals and transparent work allocation can help with this.

Technology

In order to work flexibly you need to not be reliant on being physically present in order to get the job done. Many professionals who work reduced hours are only able to do so because they are willing to log on in the evenings or on their days off when needs must. Working remotely is their key and it can occasionally help them have quality time at home without feeling they are not able to perform at work.

To be able to successfully work remotely you need to have the right technology in place to enable you to be as accessible and contactable as if you were physically present. Remote access must be fast and efficient. If you are working from home it is important to maintain a visibility so that your colleagues, managers and clients recognise how productive you can be when telecommuting.

Technology is indeed driving many of the changes in our work patterns; the advent of “the cloud” is making it even easier for you to work outside of the office and to manage your work / life integration in a flexible way.

I am writing this article as I sit in my “home” office, remotely logged onto our server and am all set up to save it in the “cloud”!

Emma Spitz is Head of Maternity Coaching at The Executive Coaching Consultancy and can be contacted on +44 (0)7775 894975.


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Posted on: 29.02.2012

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