Tag Archives: flexible working

Women want inspiration and leadership at work

18 Apr

Women value inspirational leaders and working environments over other benefits such as healthcare or pension, according to new research from O2.

Women also want their bosses to take the lead on issues such as flexible working. More than half say they want reassurance that working flexibly won’t have a detrimental effect on their career and that they can be trusted to work from home. In short, they don’t just want to stick to the traditional patterns of working, and they want that set out in black and white. An inspiring workplace is a flexible and empowering one for women.

Ben Dowd, O2 business director, says: “To create a truly flexible working culture, actions speak louder than words. And employers must lead by example to ensure that every member of staff feels empowered to shape their own definition of the nine to five.”


Home working: does it help or hinder productivity and creativity?

5 Mar
Who says home workers are less productive and creative? (pic: istockphoto.com/LifeImagesLLC)

Who says home workers are less productive and creative? (pic: istockphoto.com/LifeImagesLLC)

Home working is a hot topic, thanks to the ban on employees working from home by Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer. She outlawed home working after checking the stats on how often homeworkers logged onto work systems from home, and she decided it wasn’t enough. Her argument, set out in a memo that was leaked, is this: “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.”

Ms Mayer’s decision has sparked outrage and support in equal measures. Some have pointed out the irony of the head of a digital communications company wanting to work face-to-face. Others have said competitiveness and long hours are what’s needed at Yahoo!

A business owner argues that social media has made us more isolated, and there really is no substitute for human contact in business relationships. “No level of Skype Calls or FaceTime conversations will ever replace the reality of looking a colleague, customer or supplier in the eye and shaking their hand,” argues Pimlico Plumbers CEO Charlie Mullins.

A childcare expert from the NCT has said that working from home benefits neither mother nor child. Elizabeth Duff is quoted as saying: “You can’t adequately look after a child and do a job well if you work at home all week. In emergencies, it has to be done. But in general it shouldn’t be.”

My view is that home working can be fantastic for productivity. Continue reading

Why inflexible bosses are stifling business

18 Nov

Working flexibly gives employees the freedom to be productive. (pic credit: istockphoto/alexsl)

For any of you stuck at your desk on a Friday evening wondering when you’ll ever be able to go home, then you’re probably among the 40% of employees who feels pressured into ‘presenteeism’ to prove your commitment to your job.

A survey of 2000 office employees by mobile phone company O2 found that line managers prevent their staff working flexibly, even though staff believe they’d be more productive if they didn’t have to work under their watchful eye of their inflexible bosses.

Yes, there’s a recession on. Yes, employees need to be productive because there’s no room for passengers in any business. And yes, managers may fear that people may take advantage and use ‘working from home’ as an excuse to laze around all day. But surely employers can’t think that implicitly or explicitly expecting their employees to be tied to their desks is going to improve productivity – because it certainly isn’t going to improve staff engagement.

O2 spokesman David Plumb said: “Employees spending more time at their desks because they believe they have to is not going to contribute to driving UK business forward.” While O2 clearly has a commercial interest in people working remotely, Mr Plumb does indeed have a point.

I’ve seen it from both sides, as a manager and as an employee. Continue reading

Less presenteeism and more flexibility can help reduce workplace stress

6 Oct

I’ve never been able to tolerate martyrdom in the office: the people who sniff and shuffle to their desks, struggling through the day, spreading germs as they go – and all because they feel guilty about taking time off.

Presenteeism – turning up to work no matter what, in the belief that people will think you’re not committed to your job – is making workplace stress levels worse, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Simplyhealth Absence Management Report 2011.

Presenteeism is just one of the factors cited as exacerbating stress, which is now the number-one cause of long-term sickness absence. Over a quarter of organisations surveyed said they had seen an increase in the number of people coming to work ill in the last 12 months, and two-fifths noted an increase in mental health problems. The report says: “Such presenteeism can negatively affect an organisation’s productivity, not only if illness is transmitted to other colleagues, but also because ill employees are likely to work less effectively than usual, may be more prone to costly mistakes and take longer to recover from their illness. Presenteeism is also a sign of anxiety. Failure by organisations to address employees’ concerns may lead to mental health problems and costly longer- term consequences.”

Lack of job security is a major factor, especially in the public sector, where half of employers report an increase in stress-related absence over the past year. Stress is worse in organisations planning to make redundancies – not surprising, really, especially as half of employers use absence records as part of their criteria when deciding who to make redundant.

Other top causes of stress are workloads, management style, family issues, and organisational change. Home/family responsibilities are in the top five most common causes of absence for two-fifths of organisations.

CIPD recommends that organisations lead from the top in promoting attendance, and supporting line managers in helping to deal with stressed employees. They should also foster an “open and supportive culture” where people feel they can take time off when genuinely ill, and they should make a serious commitment to flexible working practices to allow people to juggle the various aspects of their lives.

Putting trust in snow days

3 Dec

Writing from my snowed-in home office, I have been rather bemused by reports of workers apparently skiving off on ‘snow days’, and how employers have been worried about lost productivity – estimated to be costing UK businesses £1.2bn a day.

It's been snow joke for small businesses.

While I haven’t relished being trapped in my home for four days by eight inches of cold, white stuff, at least my employer had made provisions for staff working from home – and isn’t about to dock anyone’s pay because they can’t venture safely beyond their front doors.

Snow days, for me, put a severe test on the ability of companies and their employees to work flexibly. And this comes down to trust. Sensible employers will acknowledge that employees may have the will but not the way to come to work, and will allow them to work from home. Output is easily measurable, and it means that team members are still able to do their jobs.

I’ve been able to race through a ton of work without interruption or distraction – and I even managed to get dressed for work, unlike some people who relish the chance to stay in their pyjamas until lunchtime!

I appreciate that’s fine if you’re desk bound, but from the point of view of small businesses who rely on customer interaction for their cash flow (such as restaurants, for example), I hear estimates that 800 or 900 small businesses could go bankrupt as a result of this cold snap, as they buckle under this final burden.

I have strong views on trust, and so I have to throw my hands up in despair at the woman who dialled 999 to report the theft of her snowman. For the sake of all those hard-worked emergency people, and those small businesses feeling the pinch, I’ll be praying for a swift and decisive thaw.

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