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The value of flexible working – for your agency, and for your team

This is a guest post by Narelle Morrison, COO and co-founder, Babel PR

Work is a valuable part of life, but shouldn’t come at the expense of living. Lengthy commutes, looking after young children or elderly relatives, and managing doctors, dentists, and other appointments, are just some of the reasons why more of us are questioning the viability of the rigid 9-5 working schedule.

The future workplace is flexible

It’s little surprise that more of us are seeking a better, more flexible, work/life balance. However, while 67% of employees wish they were offered flexible working, almost half say that such practices aren’t encouraged at their workplace. This has created a tricky situation: three-quarters of UK employees favour a job that gives them the option of flexible work schedules, yet the availability of flexible jobs at the point of hire is less than 10%.

The solution? Flexible working must be championed as something which is beneficial to both employees and agencies.

At Babel, we’ve experienced these benefits first hand. Account manager Ben, for instance, relocated from London to Cardiff and now works from home on a daily basis, travelling to London once a month or so to catch up with clients and colleagues. As well as cutting his commute, remote working has allowed him more time to pursue his hobbies, whilst improving his organisational and communication skills during working hours.

Consultant Declan also works from home one day a week, in order to fulfil his secondary role as a football coach for a local under-13s team. Other team members have time-shifted hours to fit around the school run, allowing them to enjoy both agency and parental life. And all of the team have the chance to make the most of the longer summer days, by working a shorter office day: during August, staff have the choice of starting an hour later, or finishing an hour earlier.

And a monthly two-hour lunch break and 4pm finishes on Friday all year round provide the team with the flexibility to catch off-peak trains, go to a gym class, or simply catch up on ‘life admin’, without having to worry about working these around a set-in-stone office schedule.

Communication is key

To make flexible working as seamless as possible, we’ve adopted a number of strategies and tools which support all team members. From a tech perspective, this means using communication and collaboration apps – both desktop and phone – like Slack, Skype, Google Drive and What’s App. A unified access and password manager also allows team members to use all of these apps – plus company subscriptions and PR tools – on any device.

It also means making the most of the basic tools we’ve all been using for years. We ensure calendars are shared and accessible by all team members, and we create email aliases for different account teams to ensure nothing is missed should one team member be out of the office.

We start our week with a team meeting – video calling those who are working remotely – where we share our whereabouts and workloads for the days ahead. Mentoring, regular account team catch-ups, and line manager one-to-ones also ensure that time is set aside for valuable, personable engagements.

Flexible working isn’t about implementing a fixed policy. Life – and our commitments outside of work – change all the time, so it’s important to create a working environment which is adaptable to change. This means regularly reviewing how, when and where members work, and learning what works best for both the agency and the individual.

Communication, collaboration, and trust are all needed for flexible working to be a success. Yet it’s important to remember that flexible working can also create and nurture these things within an agency – and that’s what makes an agency and its employees successful.