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Flexible working: your stories of supporting pregnancy and maternity

Get insights into how other Working Forward members, such as Mitie, Nationwide and Royal Mail, have put flexible working arrangements in place.

"When it comes to being flexible, we must do our utmost to keep the best people so that we can continue to provide world-class service to our clients."

Robyn Fisher, HR and Reward Business Partner

Flexible working at Mitie isn’t just for parents – it’s open to everyone, and we make sure we communicate that. The business world is changing around us and, with pressure for office space, increased commuting times and better communication, we need to think differently about how we work in order to keep up. Our business is mobile: we have numerous client sites, lots of offices and a huge geographic area to cover.

We encourage anyone to request flexible working if they wish to. We consider each request carefully and challenge our perceptions of what’s possible. We find a solution that works for the individual and for the business, and are not afraid to trial a flexible working arrangement. If it doesn’t work, then the reasons for that should be transparent to all parties. Both parties need to be realistic about what’s possible, but if flexible working isn’t an option in one role, there are plenty of other opportunities in our internal vacancies where it may be, which enables us to retain good people across the business.

We want to give managers the confidence and training to be open with their teams about the benefits and challenges of flexible working, to embrace modern communication channels in order to manage different working arrangements, and to value diversity within their team.

Our top tips for employees and line managers include setting up regular Skype calls if team members spend some time at home, and scheduling meetings appropriately if team members work reduced hours – little things like this can make a big difference. Set clear objectives for team members who are working flexibly so that they always know what’s expected from them. From a policy and process point of view, make sure you have clear, easily accessible documents and guidance for managers and employees, so they know what to do when it comes to putting forward or handling flexible working requests.

At Mitie, we will continue to look at new and different ways of adapting roles to flexible working requests. Some of the best people want to work flexibly, so we need to adjust our perceptions and our ways of working to ensure that we retain them.

"We needed to change our overall approach to flexible working, so that our policy could be used to its full advantage for the benefit of our employees and business."

Julie McCarthy, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager

Nationwide wants to build an agile talented and diverse workforce to enable our organisation, our people and our customers to thrive now and in the future. A core part of our equality, diversity and inclusion strategy is workplace flexibility.

Like many organisations we have recognised that despite a clear and supportive policy, our working culture has struggled to embrace flexible working fully. This has been exacerbated by an apparent lack of senior leaders who have role modelled flexible working, and a reliance on face-to-face meetings, and lower-than-average work-life balance scores for middle and senior management. Internal research also revealed that barriers to working more flexibly were seen as key factors to inhibiting career progression. 

We needed to change our overall approach to flexible working, so that our comprehensive policy could be used to its full advantage for the benefit of our employees and business, by:

  • Raising awareness of our policy, sharing success stories and increasing the visibility of role models across the business, including in the branch network.
  • Developing line manager resources, training and advice.
  • Increasing the number of job roles at middle management and above that were suitable for part-time working or job sharing.

We made real progress in changing attitudes and being creative about working patterns. In our branches where, for example, home working is clearly not an option, some flexibility not only works but is required to ensure that we have cover at all times. This can benefit both the business and employees – for example, some staff may choose to work every Saturday, taking time off in the week which could cut childcare costs.

In our head office and admin sites a recent initiative to promote flexible working has reduced the number of desks and freed up space for video conferencing and collaboration areas. Use of technology has reduced the number of face-to-face meetings, resulting in cost avoidance at the very highest level and increased flexibility for our employees.

Our flexible working approach is certainly moving at pace, but we still have more work to do. Job sharing, which can be a great solution to part time working in senior roles, is part of our policy but is not yet widely taken up – our next key priority.

Royal Mail: job sharing

Emma Wickham and Toni Jeffryes talk to Delivery Sector Manager, Marie Forrester, about how job sharing has enabled them to fast-track their career at Royal Mail while staying on top of their childcare commitments. It also allows Royal Mail Group to make full use of their talent pipeline by developing more of the women already working for the organisation

The job share was first conceived when Toni met Marie while she was speaking at one of Royal Mail’s Springboard events. These events aim to inspire women and help them reach their full potential.

Last updated: 10 Jul 2017