Despite this, demand still appears to outweigh availability. The CIPD 2019 working lives survey found that 68% of people surveyed would like to work flexibly in a way that was not currently available to them.
Why did we choose to try flexible working at Breathe?
Being a people-first business, it felt like natural progression for us to allow our teams to have more autonomy in their working lives.
Everyone has a statutory right to request a flexible working arrangement under the Flexible Working Regulations 2014, but we wanted a more agile scheme that is readily available, offers continuous flexibility and does not require a contractual change.
We started by researching different options around flexible working and speaking to other organisations in our network about their experiences.
We then designed a scheme which we believed would work well for our business. We named this 'Breathe-Flex'.
We considered how the scheme might affect different teams, especially those that are customer-facing.
The next stage was to gain buy-in from the leadership and management teams, which is key for any scheme to be successful.
As part of this process we had meetings to discuss the scheme proposal, expected benefits and to iron out any concerns that were raised. We were open to feedback and made changes to the scheme as a result.
We created a policy - as although we wanted the scheme to be as flexible as possible and avoid too many rules - we also needed to set some defined boundaries for people to work within.
Lastly, the best part was being able to present this exciting new initiative to the rest of the company.
Step 2: Introducing: 'Breathe-Flex'
We understood that people have different needs and preferences when it comes to flexible working, so we designed a scheme with multiple aspects so that everyone could benefit in some way.
The scheme is based on a weekly hours concept. This means that people still work their contracted hours, but with flexibility over start and finish times, duration of lunch breaks and the choice to have some shorter and longer days.
We also added the option to work from home for up to one day per week. Core hours of 10am until 3.30pm apply to provide some structure to the working day.
The success of the scheme very much depends on teams working well together. We encouraged people to be considerate, creative and open to new ways of working.
One of the 'non-negotiables' of the scheme is that the availability and level of service should not be affected, so teams need to communicate well to ensure this is maintained.
We staggered the implementation of the scheme so that the change would be gradual and we could learn and adapt as we went along.
We had one team join at a time. When all teams were onboard, we started a 6 month trial.
What's gone well so far?
The scheme has been very well received, with people reporting that it has made a real difference in being able to balance work and personal commitments.
The home-working day is proving useful for people to get headspace and work on projects outside of the office. This has had a positive impact on achievement of personal and company goals.
What are the down-sides?
It's slightly more difficult for customer facing teams to use the scheme to its full potential.
It takes extra time and communication to organise.
We've had to make some changes to building opening times and key holders so that people can access the office outside of the usual times.
Despite these points, though, the benefits of the scheme far outweigh the challenges we have come across so far.
So, what's our verdict?
We'll be able to measure the impact on engagement during our next survey, but are delighted with the positive feedback and observations so far.
We can proudly say that the launch of Breathe-Flex has been a success.
It supports our values and culture by extending trust and autonomy to our people, which has made a difference to their lives whilst also bringing benefits to the business.