What is your mindset about flexible working?
At How Do You Do It, we have been working with several clients supporting the further development of a flexible working culture. More of us expect it from work for a whole variety of reasons and it is no longer seen as an added benefit, just a way of working that should be in place. Like many of us, I am currently grappling with school holidays which really focuses my attention on how much I personally value flexible working.
However, turning that expectation into reality can be difficult with many factors to consider. One of the central challenges to address is our own mindset when we approach flexible working. There is some interesting research which highlights where it can be negative.
- The Working Families’ Top Employers benchmarking report for 2017 found that 42% of managers valued starting early or staying late as a sign of commitment, showing the value placed on presenteeism. This was in spite of 83% of organisations having the sponsorship of flexibility coming from the main board.
- In a study I have quoted in a previous blog, the Institute of Leadership and Management found that 27% of managers who had NEVER experienced flexible working thought it was a bad idea!
- The University of Kent’s 2017 study found “one-third of workers in the UK hold flexibility stigma – that is bias towards those who work flexibly and fear that working flexibly can lead to negative career outcomes’.
Hands up, I know that I have previously been guilty of the first. I am 45 and I started work at a time when flexible working wasn’t as prevalent. There wasn’t the technology to even contemplate working from home. Working in one of the Big 4, each week I had to complete timesheets accounting for the hours I worked which again highlighted that hours worked counted. It isn’t surprising that the culture I started my working life in influenced my mindset towards work.
So what do you do about this? I believe the first step is to raise our own consciousness about our mindset towards flexible working. Are we carrying a judgement towards it that if we looked isn’t backed up by evidence? For example, how can 27% of managers say something is a bad idea if they haven’t ever experienced it? By being aware of our mindset, we have the choice to do something about it.
Next, we need to start talking about it. At How Do You Do It, we really value coaching in groups. By getting people to discuss their assumptions around flexible working, it is a chance to learn that others have a different view. I may assume I can’t get promoted whilst working flexibly as I don’t know anyone in my business area who has and then in a group coaching session, I meet someone who has done exactly that.
Finally, we need to be prepared to give new ways of working a go, focusing on what can be done as opposed to what can’t. By being willing to experiment, commit positively to new approaches and learning from what does and doesn’t work along the way, we can change our mindsets.
Clair Hodgson – EMEA Director
 Top Employers for Working Families, Benchmark Summary Report 2017,
 Institute of Leadership and Management, 2016, Flexible Working – goodbye to the nine to five –
 The University of Kent, 2017, Work Autonomy, Flexibility and Work Life Balance, p3