This week marks National Work Life Week and if you’ve been following the hashtag #worklifeweek, there has been some really great discussion around the various initiatives businesses across the UK have implemented to give their colleagues an optimum work/life balance. Being able to have these in perspective is not only great for your own health (we can all agree that stress sucks) but also benefits your relationships and makes you more productive. Happy workers = win win for everyone!
Flexible working has been on the rise for some time now, with a PowWowNow 2017 survey showing that 58% of workplaces offer some form of flexible working to their colleagues - that still, however, means 42% of businesses aren’t. And even out of the 58% who do, only 24% of people actually make use of it. That’s a lot of people who are missing a bit of an opportunity.
When I joined the Lab over a year ago, it was a new situation for the team in that I lived 120 miles away in North Somerset, whereas the rest of my team work from our Wolverhampton office and live in or around the surrounding area. When I applied for the job, I was prepared to do whatever it took to make it work and was even prepared to move my life to the Midlands. For me it was about the opportunity and what I could learn, so a little thing like friends and family would understand, right?
Thankfully, I never had to risk potentially ending up all one my ones because the Lab decided to turn this into a learning opportunity for both the team and Bromford as a whole - boded pretty well seeing as our recent new partnerships with Merlin and Severn Vale Housing has seen our operating area extend to South Gloucestershire and Bristol. Practically home!
The idea is simple - design the perfect work day that fits in for all of us individually. This doesn’t just extend to location either - we are also encouraged to design our working hours around what works best for us, through the best medium for the task at hand, as long as consideration is given to the outputs you need to achieve.
This has had profound effects on us as a team - the biggest for me is it’s saved me 6 hours a day commuting (seriously, the M5 is literally the world’s biggest car park) so when I am in the office, I am prepared for that, leaving that little bit earlier to beat the traffic, using my extra office time to focus on my intentions for the day. In fact, on days when I’m in the office, I look forward to my commute home so I can download the events of the day, make peace with any frustrations I’ve had and am therefore fully in home mode when I walk back through my door.
It has pushed me to be more creative around how I interact with the team and other colleagues, as well as meaning I can push out outputs not only more quickly, but also to a higher standard. Simon and Katie, who have children, are able to enjoy key moments in day to day family life without the fear that someone is clock watching. Simon regularly logs back in when his boys are asleep, as he finds this is a productive time for him, and Katie does the same. Paul, being the wanderer he is, has worked from airports all over the world, making use of what would normally be dead time (not for me, I’m partial to a bit of Duty Free shopping) to make sure he can enjoy his break without worrying an email hasn’t been sent or something hasn’t been done.
As with any positives, we like to report on the challenges too. Being agile and living so far away means travelling to the office is costly, both in time and money, so you have to pick your moments wisely. This, coupled with the fact it’s not something all colleagues currently take part in, you can feel isolated and ‘out of the loop’ so to counteract this, we make extra effort to have weekly catch ups and use tools such as Whats App or Appear.In to keep conversations going between the team that would normally happen over a table. Only downside with using things like Whats App or socials is that you can sometimes feel like you are never actually ‘offline’. I’ve had to work really hard at this to make sure my friends and family get quality time with me when I’m around, so I mute notifications and have installed a ‘no phones rule’ at dinnertimes so we can chat and enjoy being present.
It can also be a challenge to other colleagues - historically, you had to be seen for people to think you were working. I mean, nothing says productive worker more than someone sat at a desk for 8 hours straight, right? We have got some way to go to fight back against presenteeism but as work spaces become more expensive and colleagues are encouraged to go mobile, we have to get more comfortable with trusting each other and pushing our thinking in this area, particularly for legacy departments that are traditionally office based. Bromford has been really great at supporting this and as Philippa has said before, by pushing our boundaries outside of geography, we can attract quality talent from all across the UK or even the World! Simply put:
With that in mind, we’re currently looking at how we can facilitate this by testing remote working with one of our biggest in office teams - Customer Services. As a front facing team, I can pretty much guarantee that 3/4 of you reading this will think it can’t be done whereas the other 1/4 thinks it shouldn’t. Actually, CSC is one of the easiest teams we can test this with - although front line, as long as they are somewhere they can connect with customers through our named communication channels, they can continue to deliver exceptional service wherever suits them. Given that they are a front line service, which at times can be stressful, working in manner that suits them can actually reap huge benefits for Bromford in terms of staff productivity and happiness, not to mention the cost savings of having to host a large team and kit them out with desk phones, monitors and the like. It’s in very early stages of design, and we have to consider how we tackle things like isolation and sharing knowledge, but we are hoping to move it through very shortly, so keep your eyes on our Trello board for updates.
So if you do one thing today, just take a moment to reflect on your personal work/life balance. Is there anything you could do to find a better equilibrium or do you have any tips to share that might helps others get a greater sense of control? When we feel more at peace, everyone and everything around us starts to benefit too.
About The Author
Michelle Butler joined the Bromford Lab in 2017 as a Lab Designer and is no stranger to taking a risk in search of learning more about the best way to foster innovation and transformation - she left a full time permanent role to take up this position on a fixed term basis.
Michelle is incredibly passionate about design and customer experience, and is currently completing her Foundation Certificate in Design Thinking with IDEOU as a way of expanding her own knowledge and skills - connecting with a world renowned design community is a massive bonus too!