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Whenever, wherever – the new face of flexible working

Flexible, agile, dynamic or smart working is now one of the key differentiators for agency employers

working

What does your working week look like? Working patterns are changing rapidly, and in some agencies, new, uber-flexible working policies mean that it’s possible for people to work whenever and wherever they want – a long way from the old-school view of part-time work that used to be linked almost indelibly to working mums and people with caring responsibilities.

“If we expect our people to be committed to the business and to travel and be away from home when they need to be, then you have to give back,” says Jan Steele, COO of Lucid Group, which introduced a new agile working policy a year ago. “You have to say, apart from when there’s a strong business need for you to be somewhere, you can work from wherever you want, whenever you want.” Andrew Harrison, Managing Director of Hanover Health agrees. “The edges are increasingly blurred between work and home. If you’re able to get the job done, then it matters less where and how. If you’re trusting people enough to employ them and give them ownership of a role, why shouldn’t you trust them to do that in a different place or at a slightly different time of day?”

For Con Franklin, Managing Director, Health at Ketchum, the agency’s SMART working policy, rolled-out in 2017, meets client needs while also reflecting increasing diversity, not just in terms of gender, social status or ethnicity, but also in the lives and commitments people have outside work. “Millennials and the next generation coming through are very active across multiple areas of life, all of which we want to encourage because it makes them better professionals,” he says. “You can’t compromise on accountability, but when you help people understand what accountability looks like and trust them to deliver, it unlocks the solution to managing work-life integration.”

Those agencies that are moving to this new model have invested significantly in the technology to make it happen. LUCID’s video-based platform, SPARK, means that instead of picking up the phone, video calling has become routine, with teams using real-time screen sharing and virtual whiteboards to connect wherever they are. And as Pegasus expanded beyond its Brighton base, it found that investment in new technology to drive a shift towards its dynamic working policy meant the benefits far outweighed the cost, especially when it comes to recruitment. “Candidates ask about our dynamic working policy in every single interview,” says Sonia Hall, Director of HR at Pegasus, “and it’s often been a clincher when they have been deciding between competing offers on the table.” These new, mega-flexible approaches often work alongside more traditional contractual arrangements, meaning that agencies can offer something for everyone.

Clients get it too. In a market where global RFIs make increasing reference to talent retention, being able to demonstrate that as an agency you’re doing everything you can to ensure you hold onto key staff reassures clients that the investment they make in your people will be repaid over the long term. On a more practical level, according to Andrew Harrison, clients are absolutely on board with this sort of flexible working. “If you approach it properly then everyone understands that it’s a normal part of the way people work,” he says.

But despite the many advantages of moving to agile working patterns, the ‘whenever, wherever’ work culture does risk team members feeling pressured to answer emails late at night or work during their holidays, so leaders have a responsibility to make it clear where the boundaries lie. “Being agile doesn’t mean you’re always on,” says Albert Capes, Head of Facilities at Lucid, “it’s about people finding their own way of being productive while they are out and about and working.” Andrew Harrison believes the responsibility lies with leaders to change their own style to accommodate these new ways of working. “It means making sure, for example, that if we’re sending emails in the evening because that’s how we choose to structure our work, we’ve given permission to people to log off, that they don’t feel they have to be online late in the day as well.”

Flexible, agile, dynamic or smart working is now one of the key differentiators for agency employers, and businesses that haven’t adopted this are at risk of being left behind. “I think it will become a general expectation of an agency package within the next couple of years,” says Ketchum’s Con Franklin, “and why not?” Why not indeed.

Article by
Anna Korving

Agency guru and entrepreneur Anna Korving founded the informal womens’ networking group WHAM (Women in Health Agency Management) in 2015, co-founded what is now Publicis Resolute and Real Science prior to the group’s acquisition by Publicis Health, and was most recently Chair of Hanover Health. She now mentors businesses and leaders within the health communications space.

28th January 2019

Article by
Anna Korving

Agency guru and entrepreneur Anna Korving founded the informal womens’ networking group WHAM (Women in Health Agency Management) in 2015, co-founded what is now Publicis Resolute and Real Science prior to the group’s acquisition by Publicis Health, and was most recently Chair of Hanover Health. She now mentors businesses and leaders within the health communications space.

28th January 2019

From: Marketing

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