The term ‘flexible working’ gets bandied about left right and centre nowadays. Companies use it as a means of attracting staff, and those that don’t offer it in some way probably aren’t receiving a deluge of CVs from talented potential staff right now. Employees today are more demanding. Why should we start at 9am sharp and look at the same four walls every day if we are more productive starting at 10am and working from Starbucks, armed with a gingerbread latte and a skinny muffin (is there such a thing?!)?
There’s no doubt that the extent to which a business can be really flexible depends on what that business does. There are some who claim to offer flexibility, then get terribly uncomfortable when you start ‘flexing’, and you discover they don’t really like it much after all (Yes, I am speaking from personal experience).
Having joined Onyx recently, after a year’s maternity leave, I approached my return to work with the usual trepidation. Not only was I worried my brain had become addled from watching Mr Tumble and going to countless baby groups, but I was worried about fitting work into my life after taking time out of the race.
It turns out I needn’t have worried because Onyx really do practice what they preach when it comes to flexible working. Because of this flexibility, I’ve been able to dive into working at speed much sooner than I expected – and most importantly, I get to see more of my daughter. Oh, and did I mention that, despite reducing my working hours, I now get more done than I did before? Here are some of the reasons why working flexibly works for me.
These Four Walls… or Those Four Walls…. or Those Four Walls
I’ve always found it difficult to be inspired by sitting in the same place every day, looking at the same faces, the same cupboard doors you end up studying in detail when deep in thought… you get the picture.
Working flexibly means working from absolutely anywhere, so that’s exactly what I do. Whether it’s at home, someone else’s house (notably the House of St Barnabas at the edge of Soho Square where our MD is a member – amazing building and more amazing gin selection), a coffee shop or a client’s office, technology means you can immerse yourself in work wherever you are. And because there’s not that constant undercurrent of boredom with your surroundings, you are infinitely more creative and better at solving problems.
No More Hump Day
OK, admittedly I now have Wednesdays off for ‘mum time’, so I tend to spend my’ hump day’ at a soft play centre or singing nursery rhymes with a dozen other mothers who all feel as daft as me but pretend not to. However, one thing I now avoid is getting the proverbial hump come a certain point in the week, when the commute used to really start to wear me down. I would notice by Wednesday/Thursday, I’d be grumpy, impatient, and just fed up with the extra 2.5 hours my journey added to my working day. And I was just really tired!
Now, I know I’m not the only one, and no-one loves commuting, but by working flexibly, you don’t have to do it all the time. Not only does this save money but it also means I have more energy to tackle my work.
We do still have an office and we do still go to meetings, but the fact that every week is different and there are some days where I can literally work from my dining table really helps protect those precious energy reserves.
Space to Think
We’ve all been there. You’re working at breakneck speed and your to-do list seems to be getting longer rather than shorter. You’re supposed to come up with a killer idea for a new business proposal but your brain is just so busy, it feels impossible.
Not so for me, at least not since I joined Onyx. Because I’m reclaiming more of my time, and because I have a day off in the week, I end up organising my thinking in a way I never did when I went into the same office at the same time, Monday to Friday. I often have solo brainstorms, and come back to work on Thursday brimming with enthusiasm about a great idea I had whilst feeding the ducks.
Working Around ‘Life’
Everyone has errands to run, things to do, people to see. It can feel impossible to fit it all in when you work full time. I naively thought that having one day off in the week would make it much easier, but see aforementioned points about duck feeding and nursery rhymes.
However, what I have found is that working for a company that truly embraces flexibility means I really can keep on top of my life admin, or just deal with the unexpected. Recently I needed to visit my grandmother who’d had a stroke, but as she was having trouble staying awake past 6pm it would have been difficult for me to go after work. It wasn’t a problem. I just started work earlier that day so I could shoot off early and go and see her. She was delighted, and I felt lucky that I could still do ‘life’ without work getting in the way too much.
Today, I also embraced the whole flexible working thing when I realised I had lost my PC charger and didn’t have a spare. Thanks to good old Argos, I ordered one on click and collect and was able to nip out to pick it up from my local Sainsbury’s. While there, I got a loaf of bread and some milk as I remembered our cupboards were bare at home, and it saved me having to go early evening when the supermarkets are mobbed with hungry shoppers after work. Again, this made me feel happy. I know it’s a bit strange to feel happy about a universal laptop charger, a pint of semi-skimmed and a loaf of Kingsmill but it’s the little things that make all the difference.
Mutual Trust and Respect
I’m not suggesting that people who work for non-flexible businesses treat their colleagues badly, or that they don’t trust them as far as they could throw them. I’m simply saying that working somewhere where you’re given the freedom and space to be flexible breeds a pretty unique culture. After all, some might argue I could be swanning off shopping or watching Friends re-runs while working from home (I’d never do this, by the way).
The fact is I am trusted implicitly and I know there is never any doubt in colleagues’ minds that I am being super-productive, wherever I am working from, and whatever time I started. Somehow, that makes me more committed and productive than I have ever felt before. It’s not that working within a rigid structure made me lazy, but it confined me in a way I didn’t realise until I was in a new environment.
Since I joined Onyx, I feel completely free from those kinds of restrictions, and office politics no longer exist. We are a senior team of people who work in a flexible way, from a myriad of locations, and quite simply, we just really get on with it, and each other. Everyone is allowed to work in the way which best suits them and our clients, and it delivers great results. And that, above all things, makes me very happy.