So just attended a workshop on flexible working……..interesting to say the least but unfortunately didn’t really tell me anything new.
So back in 1985 when I first started work (yes I know I really am that old), I had that good old flexi time, you know come and go as you please as long as you were in the office between 8.15 and 9.25 and leave between 4.00 – 6.15 pm and take at least 30 minutes lunch. Handed my clock card on the first day and off you go – no agreeing an early 4.00 pm finish, no working silly hours to build up weeks, half a day a month was all we could take.
Moved on from Local Government to a truck rental company and yes again we had flexi time – core hours changed but pretty much same rules – except we had the added advantage of being able to use a Saturday morning to make up our hours – great day if you wanted to get a load of work done in a quiet office.
And even as a retail manager, an element of flexible working was available, early finish Saturday, early start on load day and talked about with the other manager in store to agree who was doing what.
So what was the difference between then and now.
I could not work from home, as didn’t have the technology and to be frank really wouldn’t have wanted to get a customer to pick up a 38T truck up from my drive………. or take a delivery for 400 litres of milk on my front door step. (It really was pre internet and home computers)
Working in a customer service roles the team still provide the services when the store was open or when a transport manager had had a breakdown at 6.00 am – but we seem to find it impossible to work flexible in role that I am in now and I think I have the answer……..
- Previously, I never had to go and ask for flexibility in any of my previous roles, it was talked about openly on the first day of the job. It was contractual in some cases. Having to ask to work flexibly is almost an admittance of not being able to do the role 8.45 – 5.00 that you have asked me to do, it is like saying “hey, I have something far more important to do than be at work”
- I never had to wait 26 weeks, it was a given that everybody had this opportunity from the first day of their contract. After all starting a new job, sorting out childcare, or even just travelling 40 miles to your job are all stressful enough, when trying to get to the office for 8.45 and you are on probation!
- Because everyone had the opportunity, no one felt like they were letting the team down. To be fair we are not all professional footballers, who have 90 minutes to deliver our work, we do have a day, week, month and as long as we are delivering it should not be a problem how and where we do it……
- There was absolute trust in the staff – yes there were clocking on machines, but everyone clocked on even the managers! But no one was questioned about why they wanted an afternoon off flexi – no one really cared after all you could only have one afternoon a month and quite often you would use flexi to go to the dentist, GP etc.
- There were rules, yes they were there and everyone new them, there was no policy that you had to read, form you had to fill in.
So the question is as a manager do I like flexible working. The answer is yes, but do we make it easy for staff or managers to provide it then I think it has to be no. A definite culture change is required to get everyone on board……..after all if work life balance is to improve, traffic queues reduced (due to the 9-5 culture), then we need a definite shift in this is not something you ask for, this is something we trust you to do! After all we managed it in the 80’s.
Comments and opinions are my own