A webinar with Anna Whitehouse, aka Mother Pukka, was one of the activities our Gender Equality employee network arranged to mark International Women’s Day this year.
Anna is a journalist, blogger and driving force for flexible working. She started Flex Appeal in 2015, a year after the 2014 law giving every employee in the UK with more than six months in their job the right to request flexible working. Nearly nine million UK workers said they wanted to work flexibly but didn’t have the option.*
“I saw that for parents especially, average commuting times and limited nursery hours, were making it nigh on impossible for two parents to work 9-5 in the office”.Read more
“Open the flood gates because people are drowning behind them.”
In her words, Flex Appeal campaigns “for employers to offer flexible working to all staff. It might be compressed hours, homeworking, flexitime, smarter shift patterns or any other variation, but hundreds of studies have shown flex improves access to work, reduces stress and improves our physical and mental health. And it’s good for employers, because it raises productivity, improves loyalty and can cut costs.”
Working from home was certainly boosted up the flex agenda at Nationwide in March 2020 when, overnight, almost 10,000 colleagues left our offices for a ‘two-day’ homeworking trial which has yet to end. A timely investment in late 2019 giving colleagues new laptops enabled with MS Teams proved pivotal in making this a success.
Of necessity, old attitudes about control and presenteeism were swept aside. But Anna is keen to point out that enforced home working is not the same as flexible working and that the debate is ongoing.
In November 2020, Flex Appeal published a report, Forever Flex, sponsored by Robert McAlpine investigating next generation working and what flexible working looks like post-Covid crisis.
Its recommendations include employers being open and honest, and not making assumptions on behalf of colleagues.
“Ongoing two-way communication is critical. Talk honestly and openly, and try to share vulnerabilities. Listening is even more important. Where’s the rub in your day? What one small thing would improve your working life?
“A flexible approach still needs boundaries. Do you need people to work core hours? Are there certain service levels that must be met? Should people communicate in specific ways? Tell them. Make expectations crystal clear.”
The key Anna says is to “Recruit the right people, trust them and empower them”.
At Nationwide, we want you to be able to work in a way that suits you. Early in 2021, nearly 9,000 colleagues completed our 'Future of Work' survey so their ideas and needs could shape how we move forwards. If you’re considering us as your next employer, do talk to us about what flexibility helps you do your best work.
*'A flexible future for Britain' report by TimewiseRead less