8 Key Themes in Flexible Working from FlexForwardBrighton

Over the past few years, the flexible working landscape has evolved quickly and it’s no secret that ever-increasing numbers of employees now expect flexible working as a part of their package and with flexible working legislation updated and passed in the UK this July, businesses can’t afford not to adapt.  

Now in its fourth year, FlexForward, was hosted by Flexibility Matters in Brighton. In this first blog from the findings from the morning, we have collated the 8 most-discussed themes for the successful implementation of flexible working policy and practices.

1 The 4 Day Week 

We heard from Dr Charlotte Rae from the University of Sussex who is spearheading research into the impacts of implementing the 4-day working week. Charlotte set the scene for how flexible working requires inclusivity and an evolving dialogue between employers and employees. Her study (which is ongoing) has demonstrated positive outcomes for the 4-day working, including increased work performance.  She shared how the key to any 4-day working week framework is the 100-80-100 model, where employees receive 100% pay for 80% of time worked, for 100% productivity. Later in the month we will be able to share further details about Charlotte’s session here.

“Trust has to be implicit.”

Jane Van Zyl, Working Families


2 The Rocket Fuel – Trust & Transparency 

The successful transition to a flexible working model requires trust – a trust that is built from the CEO and travels down to employees at every level – and back again. David Blackburn, Multi Award Winning Human Resources Professional - outlined the fundamentals for success, including emotionally intelligent leadership and re-focusing the working day. 

Transparency was proposed as the best way to develop a new hybrid working culture.  By consulting the entire business, your employees can be actively involved in the development process, helping design working practices which are effective and meet the needs of all stakeholders.  Implementation is an evolution, so don’t be scared to test a new flexible working practice first, you will learn from the results and can adapt the process for improved outcomes.

Again, during implementation; transparency and trust are crucial. To know and trust that flexible working will work, staff need to see it in action and that includes seeing senior leadership being role models for the new culture. One good way to nurture trust and communication is to have Flexible Working Champions– These individuals will be role models who will champion flex, be a point of contact and guidance for colleagues and can also report back to managers on the challenges and successes of the roll-out. We will share later this month a full round up of David’s presentation, watch out for updates. 

3 Hybrid Working Demands a New Style of Leadership & Training

Role-modelling and training are the key to helping everyone in the company navigate the new working practices. Everything starts from the top.  The leadership team needs to set the scene by leading by example; this includes working remotely themselves.  Middle managers need to be supported by senior leaders and given the tools to manage effectively as they will be the people who find themselves at the squeeze point between managing a productive team and the expectations of senior leaders.  This is why embedding the new culture starts from the top.

A flexible or hybrid working culture will impact the way colleagues deliver their work and are managed. Middle managers need to develop improved skill-sets to manage the productivity and wellbeing of their remote teams, this will include management and communication skills (updated for a flexible environment) as well as emotional intelligence.

4 Flexible Working – Feasible for Every Business?

Flexible working has fast become a ‘must-have’ for talent looking for new roles, yet, is it really feasible for every business? Surprisingly for some, it has been successfully implemented by the British Army who were losing valuable people once they started to have families. Hybrid approaches have also been widely implemented in smaller businesses where there are fewer process hurdles to overcome.  Delegates discussed how every business can have its own model of flexible working that ensures the business can operate effectively, while still motivating and retaining staff.

“An end to productivity paranoia is crucial for team management to work.”

Hanna Smith, Paddle


5 Delivering Equality & Opportunities with Flexible Working

Donna Holland from Rocking Horse Children’s Charity discussed how greater opportunities and equality can be achieved through flexible working – with the added benefit of talent attraction!  From her observations, women have been the ones calling for greater flexibility to help them stay in work and juggle children and family commitments;  she also raised the question why men were not as likely to demand it.  Flexible working gives the opportunity to level this playing field. Likewise, with growing awareness of the impacts of menopause on women at probably their most talent-laden time of life, how flexible working can help women stay in their roles but have the flexibility to cope with their symptoms.

6 Using Your Office Space Effectively for Hybrid Working

Flexible working has an outcome: empty desk spaces.  Delegates discussed how businesses could now capitalise on their investment in their office spaces depending on what works best for their type of business.  A number of styles of working have been tested including creating larger, open collaborative spaces, hot desks, creative spaces and meeting areas for Zoom/Team meetings to help office and remote teams work together more effectively.

7 Do We Need to Worry About Digital Presenteeism?

As already discussed, trust and collaboration are the factors that make flex work. Each employee will be a part of a community and while teams are working remotely, they can still interact and support each other. Ultimately, under the 100-80-100 framework, productivity is key and if an employee’s results drop, that can be managed as it would be normally.

One way to help you stay engaged with your team (and to enable better communication and motivation) is to implement an ‘anchor day’, one day a week that is designated as the day when everyone is in the office.

8 The Flexible Working Benefits for Recruitment & Talent Management

A tip from the top, don’t just include ‘flexible working in a job description if you’re not planning to offer it’. Too many businesses have been latching onto the benefit of advertising flex but they aren’t practising it.  It’s vital to be clear on what flexible working means and to live by it, have your flexible working culture in place before you advertise it.  Again, before you advertise, processes need to be put in place to train all hiring managers on how to manage this updated recruitment process.  It’s also important to take a fresh look at your job descriptions.  Create a tick list of requirements when writing job specs and use inclusive and gender-neutral language to attract the widest possible pool of candidates.  A key benefit of recruiting in a flexible working culture is that it gives you access to a wider pool of talent across a wider geographic pool. What’s more, it’s been found that many team members will be happy to travel further if they are only needed in the office one day a week or month.

In summary, and in the words of David Blackburn, ‘hybrid working is here to stay.’ It’s time to be agile and adapt. The employment market has changed but it’s not only about the potential of losing female talent, or just being on the wish list for younger staff.  The statistics show it is delivering improved productivity and wellbeing with fewer people getting burnt out.  Flexible working is revealing itself to be a win-win for businesses of all sizes and even better, they can offer it in a way that suits their business.


Many thanks to our speakers for their contributions to an amazing morning –

David Blackburn, Multi Award Winning HR Professional

Dr Charlotte Rae, Sussex University

Carlene Jackson, Cloud9 Insight

Caroline Watkins, EMW LLP

Jess Hornsby, Equital

Jane Van Zyl, Working Families

Hanna Smith, Paddle


FlexForwardBrighton was sponsored by Creative Pod and Bakers Garden Buildings. We were delighted to working with Platinum Media Group – Media Sponsor and Gatwick Diamond Business – Networking Partner.


If you would like to read more about the evolution of FlexForward over the last 4 years – read Flexible Working Best Practice 2019 – 2023.

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