I HAVE had the same battle with every manager I have ever had. 

What starts as a conversation nearly always becomes a battle. A dance around the truths that very rarely, if ever, touch on the real truth of why so many organisations and bosses have such an issue with flexible working.

Of course, there are examples of jobs that require people to be ‘in the office’ during a specific time period but this does not mean there aren’t an equal number, if not far larger number of jobs that don’t. 

Why are we still so inclined to stick to the 9-5pm working hours cooked up by an American industrialist in the 1920s? And why do so many people still use bums on seats as a measure of productivity?

Whilst few will say it and even fewer will challenge it, what it often comes down to is trust. Does your employer trust you enough to let you work unsupervised or outwith normal hours or standard locations. 

It is a conversation that is often avoided because no-one enjoys the awkwardness of telling someone they don’t or can’t trust them. But is the lack of trust personal or is it the result of societal norms and antiquated systems that have simply aye been? The fact that so few organisations appear to have flexible working systems in place suggest it is the latter rather than the former.

There is fear in the unknown and hesitation to change systems and structures that have existed for longer than people within the organisation can remember.

However if organisation want to attract the best talent and get the most from their employees then this change is essential.

I used to work in an organisation that believed all business was done between the hours of 8am and 6pm. Anything outwith these times was not to be considered and they were tirelessly insistent that it made no sense to have people working in the evenings due to partner organisations all keeping similar hours. I’m not going to get into the fact that they worked across multiple sectors, spanning the full 24-hour period, or that they ran multinational projects across time zones that disprove the working pattern reasoning entirely.

The excuse given isn’t the important bit. Few people actually believe the vague reasoning behind their ‘no, this isn’t something we can support’. The part that we need to focus on and present to the individuals and teams that issue the no, is the evidence confirming that flexibility is best for both employees and employers. The part that we need organisations and employers to listen to is what we have previously only been able to evidence through examples from other countries and workplaces that have been working flexibly for years. But now that evidence is about to build very close to home.

If you don’t believe in flexibility, you don’t believe in inclusivity. And if you don’t believe in inclusivity then your business is only going to reach particular markets and market diversity is key to growth. This is about getting talented people into organisations. From those with mental health issues to those living with disabilities, those with caring responsibilities to those who simply want to live better; flexibility will bring talent.

If there is any learning to be taken from recent events, it is that flexibility is key.