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Is working 9-5 becoming a thing of the past? – a conversation with Sally Little from The Growth Company

by Stephanie Tasker | 14 October 2019

Flexible working is fast becoming one of the most sought-after benefits on the market across all business sectors. From working parents looking to support a growing family to millennials in search of a better work/life balance, more-and-more candidates are seeking out flexible working arrangements in their next employer. It is therefore becoming increasingly important to consider offering flexible working arrangements as a standard benefit in order to appeal to the best candidates on the market.

Sally Little, Group Head of Financial Accounting & Reporting at The Growth Company was one of those candidates. We recently worked with Sally to find her current role and she says that the flexible working on offer at The Growth Company was one of the major deciding factors in her decision.

Stephanie Tasker, Principal Consultant at Sellick Partnership sat down with Sally to get her thoughts on the importance of flexible working, why she thinks it is so important in modern day society and why more businesses should follow suit and implement flexible working policies as a standard benefit.

Flexible working – the deciding factor

For many modern-day candidates, the thought of working nine to five, five days a week is becoming hugely outdated, with an increasing number of candidates seeking out employers with flexible working arrangements that fit in with their life at home. As a recruiter I have witnessed this change and can confidently say that flexible working is one of the most sought-after benefits on the market, often being placed above salary in many instances.

Sally Little, who I recently placed at The Growth Company agrees. While looking for her next role it was important to find an organisation that would fit around her life at home.

“I live in Preston so being able to have 2 days working from home means a couple of days when I can take my kids to school and overall gives me a much better work/life balance.”

This is a common theme with the candidates that I and the wider team here at Sellick Partnership speak to on a daily basis. The majority, if not all, of the candidates on our database are seeking or would like some sort of flexible working arrangement in their next role. In the last 12 months a large percentage of my placements alone have chosen their current employers as a result of the flexible working arrangements they offer, proving that it is becoming a major deciding factor for a lot of candidates.

A growing shift towards flexible working

Flexible working has always been high on the agenda for candidates I have worked with, especially those looking for work within the public sector, however now we are witnessing the increase across all sectors and industries. Only 6 percent of UK employees are working the traditional hours of 9 to 5 according to a new poll carried out by YouGov. That means that 95 percent of the current working population work hours that fall outside what we would class as ‘the norm’. The same report also found that just 14% of employees would opt for working 9 to 5 if given the choice.

I also feel there has been a shift in the types of candidates that are seeking flexible working arrangements. A few years ago, if you asked me the types of candidates that wanted flexible working, I would probably have said that more experienced candidates with families saw it as a priority. These days however it is much more widely requested. Everyone from recent graduates straight through to CEOs are now seeking some sort of balance which means that businesses that are not offering flexible working are putting themselves at a real disadvantage.

What can businesses offer?

To me, flexible working isn’t just about the hours you put in at the office. Yes, it is a real benefit to candidates to allow them to alter how many hours they do or change start and finish times to suit their needs. But some businesses are going the extra mile and giving employees even more flexibility.

Take the Growth Company for example... they introduced agile working in March giving their employees the flexibility to choose where they work, when they work and the way they work. Agile working can be anything from mobile working, remote or home working, hot-desking, or just more flexibility around the times of your working day. Being agile helps to create a performance-based culture which promotes trust, outputs and efficiency. As part of implementing agile working, The Growth Company introduced flexible working hours, giving employees the flexibility to manage their own working day between the hours of 7am and 7pm subject to business need. This was huge cultural change for the organisation and required significant planning to upgrade equipment and prepare employees, but six months since launch they are reaping the benefits with employees being empowered to manage their working day and attracting the best candidates on the market, like Sally Little.

This flexibility was one of the reasons Sally accepted her role so she can work around her commitments at home. Talking about the policy Sally said:

“We can work between 7am to 7pm from any location. We have the flexibility to choose the way we work but this is around work priorities and is managed locally in teams how often you are expected to be in the office, as some of our teams are client facing. It is expected that I will be in the office 3 days a week on average however others have much lower expectations to attend the office.”

For flexible working to work it needs to suit the needs of employees of all kinds. This could mean starting and leaving the office earlier or working from home a few days a week. While speaking with Sally I was delighted to hear how popular the initiative has been. She added:

“Everyone has engaged with this, very few employees are in the office 5 days a week now. The ability to hot desk allows you to meet people you wouldn’t normally sit with and to work in your own preferred style (i.e. desk, multiple screens, café tables, large group meeting tables)”.

It is this type of flexibility that is giving some companies a real competitive edge and is becoming the key deciding factor when experienced candidates are accepting a role. Giving prospective employees an alternative to working the normal 9 to 5 allows businesses to recruit from a much wider geographical talent pool.

Flexible working requires trust to be a success

There is no question that the demand for flexible working is huge and is continuing to grow, which makes me wonder why there are still businesses and some sectors that are refusing to adapt and change with the times. Although quite rare, we still speak with some employers that are not equipped or able to offer any forms of flexible working for their staff, which often puts them at a disadvantage from the offset when recruiting.

But why are some businesses and managers still hesitant to offer something that is so widely well received? When speaking with Sally she told me that she believes that trust is the basis of making flexible working a success. She said:

“Some managers worry that if you can’t see your staff you don’t know what they’re doing. This comes down to leadership not management and trust within a team.”

I found this a very interesting point and find myself agreeing with what Sally is saying. Many of the organisations that I see that are still hesitant to offer flexible working are very performance and KPI driven, so them not having trust that the work will be done fits. However, I think this is a shame as there are plenty of sales businesses such as ourselves at Sellick Partnership that have proven that flexible working can work in a highly pressured sales environment, and these businesses that are hesitant should take stock and follow suit, otherwise they risk falling behind and will likely struggle to recruit.   

Successful businesses can reap the rewards

Flexible working however is not just a fad, in fact it has a huge number of benefits for employees and employers alike. Benefits such as employee satisfaction, motivation, increased productivity and even financial benefits have all been linked to successful flexible working policies.

At the Growth Company they believe agile working:

  • has improved business performance and customer satisfaction
  • helps to attract and retain talent
  • provides a more responsive and competitive service
  • supports better work-life balance and health and wellbeing
  • enhances productivity
  • and has helped achieve cost efficiencies in their estate that has been reinvested into the business

Introducing agile working also helped The Growth Company make changes to improve the way they work which has contributed to being awarded Investors in People Silver.

The future of flexible working

What does the future hold for flexible working? Personally, I only see the appetite for it increasing. I agree that trust and respect of colleagues is the basis of making anything work, but if an employer can ensure they have this I do not see why flexible working can’t continue to evolve, especially as digital developments continue to make remote working even easier.

I personally take advantage of flexible working in my current role at Sellick Partnership. As a mother I needed to be able to work my hours around my commitments at home and being able to do this has greatly assisted in my development and career as a recruitment professional. Without this support I may not have been able to achieve what I have, so I know first-hand how important flexible working can be.

Sally agrees…

“On the days I’m not in the office I work when I would otherwise be commuting and the lack of interruptions from office noise keeps me focussed and allows me to increase my outputs. I am a happier person as the guilt of wanting both a career and motherhood is reduced and I feel I am a more rounded person as a consequence”.

Can we help you?

We have helped numerous businesses implement successful flexible working benefits with great results. If you would some advice on how to approach flexible working, and what types of policies will attract the candidates you need, get in touch.

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