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Agile Working - We've had our say

It’s time we discussed the elephant in the room – Agile Working

What follows is the result of feedback from all departments within Westray Recruitment Group as well as wider, statistical or anecdotal evidence and research. It isn’t intended to advocate for, nor argue against agile working. Some of us are passionate about its benefits, whilst others, commendably, are self-aware enough to know certain aspects would not work for them.

For the sake of clarity, and before we tackle the proverbial elephant in the room, agile working is not just remote working or flexi-time, it’s not just compressed hours or job sharing and it certainly isn’t just working part-time or working on a temporary contract. It is all of these, in any blend that suits a business and/or the staff within it.

The statistics (Vodafone, 2018) are these, 83% of 8,000 businesses surveyed in 2018 said categorically that flexible working had directly led to higher levels of productivity and 61% of those said it had boosted company profits. 90% of UK professionals would, given the choice of 2 similar jobs, choose the one that offered more flexible working options. More than 70% of millennials and gen z’ers, (is that how it’s written?), literally the future of ALL businesses, expect flexible working options. 63% of staff report feeling more energised and motivated when working flexibly and 39% of remote workers were happy to work extra hours to complete tasks compared to just 24% who work purely in an office environment. Crucially though, agile working can’t be reduced to a black and white article centred on percentages, it requires the input of humans, how they feel about it.

The most important point taken away from our own internal feedback is that a flexible approach to flexible working is absolutely vital. As is always the way with recruitment, different sectors require different flexibility. If you’re running a 200mph Industrial desk where you’re chasing temps and taking last minute job orders, then compressed hours might not work best, but flexi-time might work well if you liaise with colleagues on the desk to ensure it’s always covered. That way, if you need to be available for a staff surgery with a client at 20:00 ahead of a night shift, you can start later in the morning and avoid burn out. Conversely, if you’re working a Commercial desk where candidate quality is key, remote working can offer the quiet focus required to digest CVs and talk at length with candidates, whilst still being able to respond to emails and liaise with the office.

Several of our colleagues were advocates of the flexibility to work in the way that works best for them whilst maintaining contact with colleagues to ensure cohesive working and productivity. In this way, they can share ideas and collaborate on recruitment campaigns and share ideas. It was also really impressive to see their awareness that some people may struggle with mental health and benefit from the chance to work in their comfort zone at home. They didn’t talk about themselves, there is just an awareness for others which is absolutely fantastic to see. At the same time, even those of us who do occasionally benefit from the quiet of home working need to be cautious not to isolate ourselves as loneliness can occur suddenly and without warning too.

One of our recruiters doesn’t personally think it would work for him as he feels that he benefits from the structure of set hours in an office environment and the camaraderie that this brings. He also said he’d be too easily distracted at home which would affect his level of productivity and ironically, it’s this kind of commitment from individuals that makes them the best candidates to be trusted to work remotely!

Trust. 5 letters amounting to 1 syllable absolutely loaded with emotive language. Do you think your manager can trust you to work flexibly, to be effective working remotely or to work your contracted hours via flexi-time? Do you think that your manager thinks that they can? The beauty of our industry is that performance is both specific and measurable, so it’s easy to very quickly establish which aspects are working and which are not, and to tailor what’s best for the long-term on a departmental basis.

In summary then, there is an overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence in support of offering staff the opportunity to work on an agile basis according to what works best for them as individuals and the type of work that they do. Of course, there are also concerns from individuals about how it might impact their productivity and it’s important to note that just because it’s offered, doesn’t mean everyone has to use agile working options. It is never an every one or no-one solution. Crucially however, staff must be conscientious enough to make it work and repay the flexibility offered by their employer. Individual circumstances must also be considered, and the best way to establish efficacy is to perform a trial and measure the outcomes in the myriad ways in which this is possible.

We’d love your thoughts on flexible working in recruitment. Pass them on in the comments section!

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