FlexForwardBrighton Best Practice: Implementing Flexible Working Culture

So how does flexible working actually work in the real world anyway?  Where do you start?  At FlexForwardBrighton, Flexibility Matters was delighted to be joined by David Blackburn, Multi Award Winning HR Professional. David has extensive experience of (and a passion for) implementing flexible working cultures.  In this blog, we report on the elements that underpin any new flexible working culture: transparency, trust, collaboration and training. 


How Transparency and Trust Underpins Successful Flexible Working

‘Hybrid and flexible working teams are here to stay,’ said our keynote speaker, David Blackburn and for it to be effective there are certain interlinking fundamentals that need to be addressed – all of which are bound together by trust.

Trust Circle Flexible Working

From his extensive experience of implementing flexible working frameworks, David is passionate that transparency and trustare the key to success, to achieve this there needs to be communication and collaboration and a willingness to learn and evolve.

Clear Direction – Defined Boundaries

Any CEO will want control of how their business performs, so CEOs and senior leadership need to define this from the top.  However the complete process for defining flex in your workplace demands thorough consultation involving all levels of the business and testing before a full roll-out. 

It’s likely that managers and team members will want and need guidance on what level of flex is right for their team, individuals and the company.  The questions, ‘how will I be managed?’ and ‘‘how will we manage them?’ are common.  New systems will need to be implemented for training to meet the needs of the new flexible working culture. Scoping out frameworks, processes and new approaches to training are vital ingredients for effectiveness and two-way transparency. 

One real outcome of a change of culture is the ‘Middle Management Squeeze’.  

Without clear boundaries and frameworks, a change in working culture can negatively impact middle managers pulled in two directions. Trying to ensure their teams are adequately resourced to achieve set goals while meeting the demands of senior leadership.  Everyone needs to be on the same page with senior leadership leading by example, acting as role models for new culture and implementing flexible working for themselves too.  

Build trust and effectiveness through communication

When it comes to implementing hybrid working schemes, you don’t always get the balance right first time.  During planning and after going live, keep talking to your managers and your team about their real-world experience of how it’s working.  This will help smooth out any bumps about concerns around the change in culture, productivity, performance and how to monitor it. A point to note is that the development of flexible working can be peer-driven, trial different styles of flexible working before a final roll-out. 

Question: Do you have a flexible working champion in your organisation? 

Answer: A flexible working champion is a role model who acts as your ambassador, enabling open and honest conversations and providing guidance to colleagues for the roll-out and feedback for management teams.

Digital Presenteeism

Some businesses will raise concerns about no longer being able to ‘see’ employees on a daily basis and how their teams can be managed as a result. One example is how to address digital presenteeism and whether tracking software is required. It’s important that employees have psychological safety, for both their wellbeing, but also motivation and productivity and this is where trust features yet again.  A thorough flexible working consultation and testing period should help allay any fears as to how to manage employee performance. 

But remember, whether your team members are working from home or not, they are still part of a community. Creating a culture of trust and collaboration where teams can interact and support each other (whether in-person or remotely) is more effective than being overly-managed.  As with any other working scenario, when a team member appears to be  falling behind, this is an opportunity to address why.

Flexible Working Implementation: Training is Key

When flexible working is new to an organisation, it is a shared experience that is made easier with training on all aspects. Training should be top-down from directors, through middle-management and to team members.  Training is valuable for middle managers in particular, helping them deal with the pressure of the team members/director above and below where each has different viewpoints on what can, should and shouldn’t be happening.  Areas of training helpful for middle managers include leadership behaviour training including emotional support & wellbeing coaching skills.

In addition, you can look for alternative (and innovative) ways to help team members adapt and perform in the new culture.  Some examples include using the book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ (by Stephen Covey) to develop improved performance behaviours and diary detoxes (including unnecessary meetings!).

Flexibility Matters has worked with hundreds of businesses helping them build flexible working teams that meet the needs of their stage of business, growth goals and business requirements.  If you’d like to find out more about getting the right people to support your flexible culture, contact emma@flexmatters.co.uk or call 07810 541599.

Read more from FlexForwardBrighton and Flexible Working Best Practice 2019 – 2023.

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

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