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We have recently heard about Amazon’s inflexible working arrangements as well as evidence accumulating that flexible and agile working can have positive effects from the point of view of efficiency.  However I believe that it is also important that this practice is not all about process but also about people.

Flexible working can be a challenging issue for business leaders, partly because the risks are obvious – being taken advantage of, work not getting done, losing business…  While the benefits like employee wellbeing, improved work-life balance, reduced stress and presenteeism are thought to be difficult to measure.

Flexibility is one of the key factors/social skills in achieving resilience and yet it can be the hardest to develop.  Experts in behavioural science view mental flexibility not as a personality trait, or a state of mind, but as a set of behaviours that can be learned. Mental flexibility in more organisations will lead to a positive attitude to real flexible working.

People are usually flexible about some things and inflexible about others, so when they can think about flexibility as “something they do” and not “who they are,” they will start to realize that they can make positive changes that may open up opportunities.

A good approach to effective flexible working is to focus on employee responsibilities, not the process.  Your best employees are the ones meeting their responsibilities and delivering the best results. What time they get to work, what time they leave and how many hours they spend at their desk are irrelevant.

Today, most employees are working through most of their waking hours – responding to e-mail, checking documents for a meeting next day, working on a project at home where they can create a quieter working environment.  This is the new 21st Century reality and most are OK with this, providing flexibility works both ways.  This is the key factor which appears to be missing in some organisations – TRUST.

Trust has to be a two way belief. Managers and HR have to trust their colleagues and colleagues have to trust managers and HR. An agenda of distrust creates distrust and reduces productivity and engagement.  Honesty and openness is part of trust, and in my experience are the key issues which need to be worked on.

If a project requires workers to be present together to get the desired outcome, then the job of the manager is to make this happen – using negotiation if necessary.  When all parties begin to experience this approach a sense of success and motivation for the project is achieved with positivity all round.

Alison King, president of Media Profile said: “When employees feel the trust of management, they almost always honour it; and when people come to value a benefit like this, they do their best to protect it. No one wants to risk the disapproval of their colleagues by taking advantage of something so highly treasured. This is the endpoint that leaders should strive for – a flexible workplace program that goes beyond being a perk and instead benefits everyone.”


Ann McCracken is a Director of AMC2 and the vice president of the International Management Association (ISMA UK) – the professional body for stress management Practitioners.

She specialises in developing a positive and resilient working culture in organisations by introducing effective strategies in performance and wellbeing at all levels. The effectiveness of such a positive working culture is measured and assessed using AMC2 Corporate Diagnostic innovative surveys which include measurement of psychosocial factors, stress and wellbeing. Having initially trained as a scientist, she carried out research with DEFRA and consultancy in the NHS.

She spent 10 years in Education before retraining as a stress management practitioner in 1996. She is the author of Stress Gremlins©, regularly writes/broadcasts and is an external lecturer at Westminster University. She is also a Key Note/Motivational speaker/Conference Chair.

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