How to make flexible working work for you
While financial services professionals virtually never seem to have downtime, this time of year can perhaps be the quietest, and many might choose this time to work from home a […]
While financial services professionals virtually never seem to have downtime, this time of year can perhaps be the quietest, and many might choose this time to work from home a little more than usual, or take time off altogether. Yet latest research shows that this kind of flexible working can sometimes just be another name for more working – so how can you make sure this doesn’t happen to you?
Working hours in finance
Recruitment agency Morgan McKinley recently conducted a survey about working hours and flexibility, which revealed that 94% of the mainly middle managers who responded work more than their contracted hours on a weekly basis – 20% by more than 10 hours. They say that this helps ensure they meet deadlines and cope with their workload. Almost half (47%) don’t even leave the office or take a break at lunchtime.
Nearly a third (31%) feel expected to work overtime for which they are not paid. Only 8% were compensated for the additional hours they work.
Changing attitudes and patterns
With the advent of computers, the internet, smart phones, and all manner of other modern technology, the way in which we all work has changed dramatically in recent years. And because of this technology, it’s now much easier to be contactable or ‘on line’ 24 hours a day. But keeping up with, and adapting to such changes in a healthy and manageable way, does of course take some longer than others.
Speaking in relation to the survey results, David Leithead, Morgan McKinley UK’s chief operations officer, said that “Employees now have increased access to flexible working but end up working a greater number of hours every week. It is becoming a widespread dilemma.
“Employees often don’t take any kind of lunch break but feel obligated to work beyond their contracted hours. When they finally leave the office, they feel they should be available on mobile devices. This feeling of ‘not being able to down tools’ can negatively affect an employee’s wellbeing, causing mental burnout.”
Leithead added that the Labour Party proposal to introduce a four-day working week – which they argue could restore balance in people’s lives while maintaining productivity levels – is gaining traction among professional workers. Not surprisingly, business groups are more sceptical.
“While this may not be the best solution, it is crucial that employers recognise the issue of overworking and manage it appropriately,” he added. You’re probably aware yourself of how your productivity changes depending on whether you’ve already worked for 8 hours that day, or enjoyed a restorative break.
The survey also found that 75% of respondents believe flexible working benefits not only employees (since it improves wellbeing), but also the company they work for in terms of performance and profitability. If overall productivity is improved through employees working at their best, surely it’s a win-win for everyone?
However, 44% worried that flexible working led to a disengaged workforce and 41% thought it impacted on the careers of those who choose to do so. And with many now working extra hours because they can do so flexibly, is flexible working adding more stress than it saves? It is really up to individuals to manage their own time in relation to what is expected of them.
How to best manage your flexible work time
- Be strict with yourself – set times that you’re definitely ‘on’, and then, make sure you stop working at the time you’ve agreed to stop. Any tasks not completed by then will just have to wait. This forces everyone to work smarter to agreed times.
- Communicate your hours – make sure your team and whoever else needs to know knows what your hours are and when they can contact you. Contact outside of those times will not be responded to.
- Review – you might find the working pattern you’ve chosen doesn’t quite fit with what’s needed of you, so make sure you review how the situation is working out. You might need to give a couple more hours on one day, but take them back again on another.