‘How about a meeting next week?’ ‘Monday’s no good, I only work Tuesday to Thursday.’ ‘Oh, I only work Mondays to Wednesdays and we need to include Sharon who only works Wednesdays to Fridays.’ ‘Wednesday it is then, how about 9:00?’ ‘Sorry I’m on the school run!’
And so it goes. When I first started work part time or flexible working was a rare thing but that was over forty years ago. Times have changed for the better in my opinion. Flexible working has allowed many more people to find employment, earn money and contribute to something they enjoy doing. Technological advances have made it even easier for many.
Flexible working should be celebrated. It has transformed the world of work and will be with us for a long time to come, yet our ability to manage the modern working environment has some catching up to do. Keeping track of who is where and who needs to contribute to what is an interesting challenge for anyone in a leadership role.
The temptation will be for managers and project leaders to try and get everyone to bend to their will and comply with their own diaries but this is not the answer. Just as we need diversity in the workplace, diversity of experience, background and culture, we need diversity in working patterns, for the simple reasons that businesses need to reflect the society they wish to serve.
What is the answer? Technology can already play its part. Presence software can easily tell when someone is available and sharing of diaries will allow time to be found when people can get together yet there will always be people and times that won’t work.
Perhaps what we need is flexible flexible working, a degree of flexibility around everyone’s working hours rather than absolute rigidity. Employees could identify hours when they are normally available for work, hours when they are not available and something in between, times where they are prepared to work given enough notice. This could lead to a rise in a different kind of contract, where employees commit to a number of hot hours of guaranteed availability, a smaller number of warm hours of flexible availability and cold hours where they cannot work. Warm hours would only be called upon when required and under agreed conditions for communication and project planning etc. I’m sure technology could work all this out.
Let’s see if the world of work warms to the idea?