Flexible working one year on

We’re one year on from our flexiday experiment, where we asked the 2500 employees based at our Slough HQ to work somewhere else for the day.

The experiment was to test our business readiness and make sure we were prepared for the disruptive events of summer 2012, like the London Olympics. It taught us a lot – mainly that flexible working isn’t just about technology – a behavioural change led by managers is required too.

Although O2 already had a flexible working culture, our experiment gave people further permission to work outside the office. This is even more important in a tough economy and job market. Last year we conducted research, which showed that 41% of employees feel pressure to be present and visible in the office as a result of the economic climate. On flexiday, managers took the lead by working from home themselves, giving their teams reassurance that it’s ok not to come into the office, as long as the work still gets done.

It’s about measuring productivity as output, not input. It’s one thing being able to watch people work in the office, but are they being as productive as they could be? The reality might be that without the distractions of the office they’d actually get a lot more work done, and at a higher quality. In fact on flexiday, nine out of ten of us reported that our meetings were just as productive, or even more so – showing that technology like MicrosoftLync really is workplace ready.

Flexible working has also enabled us to better plan our working week. Days in the office can be focused around meetings and catching up with colleagues face-to-face. And work that requires real ‘quiet time’ and thinking, like writing papers or researching, can be done from home where there are less interruptions. And it hasn’t stopped me being able to manage my team, who are spread geographically around the UK. You just have to concentrate on the outputs, rather than whether they’re at their desk, or if they’ve logged into the system. Ultimately, flexible working is about trust. I trust them to do what they need to do. They trust that O2 will give them the flexibility to achieve that around their other commitments.

And there are other benefits. I spend more than an hour and a half commuting each day. Now, when I work from home I can spend that time with my daughter instead, which is real motivation to make flexible working work.

It takes the hassle out of everyday life too. If you can only get a dentist appointment in the middle of the day, or your car has to go to the garage, you can fit it in with working from home. But it’s more than just being able to get to personal appointments. There are times when I need to work outside the 9-5 constraint, or when I need to do non-work tasks within those hours. For me, flexible working is about being able to manage my time effectively and maintain a good work/life balance.

To find out more about flexible working and the benefits it could bring to your business, call Matt Worth on 01235 433507 or visit our website