Many organisations claim to offer flexible working, and in the UK  employers are obliged to at least ‘reasonably consider’ any request for flexible working from an employee. But what does real flexible working look like?

What Is Flexible Working?

Working from Home is probably the most talked-about version of flexible working, along with flexi-time and part-time arrangements. But for many, promises of flexible working deliver anything but, equating to little more than ‘You want to leave early for school sports day? OK… but you better schedule it 3 months out and be in early the next day’.

I believe real flexible working means empowering individuals to be the happiest and most comfortable they can be. Because when we’re happy and comfortable, we’re focussed and productive. It means clarity around what success looks like for them and to you. Being aligned on Core Values and expectations and then giving respect and autonomy to get on with it. It means treating people like grown-ups. It ain’t rocket science, People.

What Flexible Working Looks Like for Us

At MUTU System we operate flexible working. Which translates as:

Work wherever you like.

Work whenever you like.

There’s more to it but I guess those are the big ones. We measure performance and output in *delivery*. Of ongoing tasks, achieving targets, a project, a campaign, a tech build or fix, copy, design, a report… whatever the KPI’s appropriate to your role, that’s what you’re held accountable for. Provided your total hours are completed, we don’t mind when or where you do it.

Our epic team includes parents of babies and toddlers with schedules that may mean they’re wide awake at 3 am, or exhausted at 3 pm. A single parent, and a military spouse who spends months at a time as a single parent. Amazingly skilled, brilliant people for whom anxiety or mental health issues may make certain environments difficult. We communicate and we adapt. A Super-Hero military veteran, registered disabled and with multiple physical and other challenges who needs workspace adaptations as well as true flexibility in order to work comfortably. So we do all we can to ensure she’s comfortable and able to be awesome.

We have a meetings schedule (on Zoom), and no one is late or not fully present. Our calls are positive, aligned, productive and they move us forward. I’ll describe the systems, agendas and tools we use to facilitate our business in another post. But I’ll say here that we have targets and deadlines and we run a rapid growth, successful international 7-figure health tech business. We’re not a bunch of slackers singing kumbayah with no accountability.

What Are Employers So Scared Of?

Fearful articles or comments of ‘They’ll just sit at home and watch Netflix!’ or ‘Nothing will get done!’, makes me question not the employees, but the employer. If your people would rather slack off than deliver when you’re not looking over their shoulder, then maybe you’re not treating them so well. Clarity, respect and a sense of pride and purpose are what makes us perform at the highest level all by ourselves. That’s respect for their skills at work, and respect for their lives outside work.

Obviously this level of flexibility is not workable in every profession and in every environment. But it is workable in many more than it’s currently being practised. And where more structure and defined working hours are essential, there is surely more that can be done to embrace people’s motivations and happiness. Would love to know your thoughts.