Flexible Working Boon or Curse

It all depends, but to steal a quote “I’ll tell you a story”.  
I was managing an employment law helpline when we offered a job to a woman who came highly recommended from a competitor.  We had done it all properly, issued letters with salary details, start date and everything when she phoned me to apologise and say she couldn’t take the offer as she had just found out she was pregnant.  
Two things to remember here.
1.     I did not know this woman
2.     She was an experienced employment law adviser
 
Quite apart from the fact that it was a large department and I had no problem covering maternity leave, I do feel that women suffer disproportionately in the workforce because of their role as a mother.   It would be a very stupid employment law expert who withdrew the offer of employment on the grounds that the employee was pregnant.  
She joined us and it immediately became clear her offer not to join us was genuine and she was both professional and reliable.  Her concern had been that she was expecting twins and wasn’t sure how she would cope after the birth. In addition, when the children were born it became clear that they had some health problems and this added to the challenges she was facing.  We discussed what work she was able to do, because by then we knew we had a fantastic employee on our books and we didn’t want to lose her. 
In the end, we agreed she could come in during the afternoon and work until early evening.  The effect was amazing. When the rest of the helpdesk were low on energy and motivation after several hours on the phones, she came in at about 3pm and mopped up all the outstanding jobs that had been left on one side.  Giving helpline advice for 8 hours a day is a pretty stressful job so she gave a lift to the entire workforce. 
Now I know that there are many unsuccessful examples of flexible working arrangements but I would argue that properly arranged it can be a positive experience in most environments, especially the service sector. 
 
This coupled with the increasingly compelling evidence that part-time workers are more productive than their full-time colleagues makes giving it a try well worth the risk. 
One other factor that convinced me of its value; the staff turnover for full time traditional employees was significantly higher than for staff who worked part time or flexibly.  At a cost of approximately £3000 for each recruitment exercise, that can save a lot of money whilst keeping skilled staff on board. 

Leave a Comment