Women’s Business Council Flexible Working Roundtable: Managers Key to Flexible Working


Women’s Business Council Flexible Working Roundtable: managers key to flexible working
“At the end of the last month, a member of the Women’s Business Council chaired a Flexible Working Roundtable with Opportunity Now members.
John Timpson, CEO of Timpson’s and member of the Women’s Business Council, held the roundtable discussion with representatives from six organisations - Bupa, Centrica, Costain, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, PwC and Santander. The roundtable explored how business leaders have managed agile/ flexible working through organisational culture change in their organisation, the challenges they have overcome, as well as processes around maternity leave and women returners.
The group discussed how agile/ flexible working is often more prevalent in ‘back office’ or support roles, but is more challenging to implement in the ‘front office’ and customer/client-facing roles. There was general consensus that managers are key to the successful implementation of more flexibility for all staff, and that measuring performance in terms of outputs rather than ‘presenteeism’ is critical if agile/ flexible working is to succeed.
John Timpson asked how ways of working had changed in the last twenty years, leading to discussion on how technological developments and a more global and 24/7 society means that organisations have had to be adaptable and agile to respond to these demands. We have also seen a shift towards more part-time employees (whether they are working parents, working carers or otherwise. In fact, only 17% those polled for Opportunity Now by YouGov cited spending time with children as a benefit) and more internationally mobile teams.
This roundtable reinforce findings in Opportunity Now research Out of Office, which shows that agile working is for everyone, not just working parents. Out of Office also found that organisations must provide managers with the support and skills to manage remote workers and should encourage them to extend flexible working to all members of the team, to ensure a new form of segregation does not develop.
Overall, introducing more agility into workplaces to meet these evolving demands also leads to significant cost savings. For example, we know that BT estimates that its 11,600 home workers save it $136 million a year in accommodation costs and they are also 20% more productive than their office based co-workers.”
Opportunity Now actively supports the work of the Government Women’s Business Council, an informal advisory body that will look at ways of maximising women's contribution to economic growth. The council is chaired by Ruby McGregor-Smith of MITIE and includes Opportunity Now Board Member Eddie Gray of GlaxoSmithKline