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Flexible Working - A reality check

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Flexible working is all the rage. Or is it? In theory, technology allows us to be working from home a great deal but do the companies we work for allow us to in reality?

I spend a considerable part of my working week visiting companies, talking about job specifications and talking to candidates and I have reached the conclusion that there is a dichotomy in many cases between what companies perceive to be flexible working and what candidates would like the definition of flexible working to be.

Let's start with candidates. Many candidates, particularly those with child or carer responsibilities would like flexible working to mean working the hours that suit them and their other responsibilities. That could mean for example that they work in the evenings or before the traditional working day starts or even at the weekend but then take time out during the traditional working week to look after a child or do a hobby. Companies however are resisitant for the most part to this form of working. In the majority of cases, I find that corporate flexible working is defined as flexing start or finish times or shortening lunch breaks so that people can go home early on a Friday maybe.

With technology as advanced as it is, why do we still see resistance to a wholesale change in the way that we work. I think there are a number of reasons. Firstly, how do you manage people and their workload if they are not there. It involves incredibly high levels of trust from an employer that the employee is doing what they say they are, which is why people who do have more flexibility tend to have been with companies for a while or are senior management. Management of flexible workers is still something we don't really discuss and has some way to go. Secondly, how do you mentor and develop people effectively when they are not there. Thirdly, how can you have a company culture which binds people together in a team if they are all working individually. And finally, and most obviously, some jobs just need poeple to be there at set hours. .

So whilst employees think that they can do their job from anywhere if they are linked remotely, employers have a different view on just how flexible they think they can allow employees to be.We still have a long way to go before the dream of real flexible working becomes a reality.