January 1, 2020, the new Working Hours Act came into action in Finland, setting a new standard for flexible working. The law will give the majority of full-time employees the right to decide when and where they work for at least half of their working hours. This is ground-breaking and it’s no surprise that Finland leads the way in flexible working.
Here in the UK, workers have the right to request flexible working and there has been a five-fold increase in the number of people working flexible hours according to research by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies.
However, in my opinion, there is still work to do and I’d like to see statistics on the detail of flexible working requests and how frequently these requests are approved and denied. I’d like the UK government to develop a mandate as Finland has. I believe this change will only happen if more employees demand it.
In Autumn 2019, I joined Tribal Impact – my first experience working remotely with flexible hours and it has changed my life, for the better.
I’m sharing my experience because I hope it opens up a conversation between employees and business leaders. And that both sides will question how ‘flexible’ their flexible working policy is.
Before joining Tribal I worked full – time, Monday to Friday, 9-5 and in an open-plan office. I had previous experience in field roles, the perk of occasional home-working and an unofficial flexible work-hours arrangement in place. These experiences gave me a flavour of what was to come, but nothing really prepared me for what was in store when I went wholly remote with flexible working day in and day out.
A few months in, this is what I’ve learned:
I’m less stressed. I spent two hours a day commuting, 15 miles each way. Ridiculous. The hamster wheel of rising early, sitting in traffic, working and then sitting in traffic again to arrive home to pick-up my child was real. Now I commute to a workspace in my dining room. I sleep a little later and my mornings are focussed on having breakfast with my daughter before she goes off to school. Getting those two hours back each day has had a tremendous impact on my stress levels – they’ve gone down.
I exercise more. This wasn’t the case in the beginning. When I first joined, I felt I needed to be at my desk 9-5. In fact, one day I moved a measly 1500 steps. Now, that I’ve settled into remote & flexible work I regularly go to Pilates, Kettlebells or take a long walk. This again has had a positive impact on my wellbeing.
I volunteer. An occasional helper at Scouts, school fundraisers and parent reader at my daughter’s school. These are a few ways I’ve gotten involved in my community. Most of these weren’t possible before because they were during traditional working hours, logistically weren’t possible with my commute or frankly, I was too damn tired to make time for.
I spend more time outdoors. When the sun is shining, there is nothing better than being outdoors. Many an afternoon, I’ve spent working in my garden and the fresh air. Yes, you can go for a walk on your lunch break and some offices have outside space. But is this reality for most British workers?
I get bored being within the walls of my home sometimes. Sometimes, being at home is boring and I need a change of scenery. When I’m feeling this way, I take the dog for a walk as a quick fix and plan a day to work at a coffee shop. I’ve recently found a co-working space that I’m planning to try soon.
I miss the laughter, not the politics. Working in an open office environment meant I spent a lot of time with my colleagues. They saw the best parts of me and the worst too. I made some wonderful and treasured friends. And some days the quiet of working remotely is deafening. I miss having a giggle with my desk mates. But, with office laughs often comes office politics and I do not miss that one bit.
I realise that working remotely may not be for everyone. I’m a firm introvert and don’t require the company of others to gain energy. I’m mostly okay with quiet and being alone throughout the day. I speak to my Tribal colleagues and clients regularly over chat, video, phone and email. But mainly, it’s me and my dog. And that works for me.
I know I’m trusted. Trust is a core tenet of remote and flexible working. Trusting your team to get on with the job without your presence is a must. My team at Tribal have trusted me from day one, I didn’t have to ‘earn it’ and this has profoundly impacted my commitment to the business.
I easily get into a state of flow. You know you’re in flow when you’re in the zone and the work is just coming out of you. It’s good quality and you know it – your inner genius is alive. This happens to me a lot. I can fully concentrate without distraction or interruption. Without a doubt, my productivity has increased because I can power through what needs doing.
I have an array of technology to make it happen. At Tribal, we’re set up to succeed remotely and have a suite of technology to support us. A few of the tools we use are Asana, Zoom and Office 365. All of our tools can be accessed via mobile, so you can work from anywhere and on the go.
My career and family life ebb and flow. This is the closest I’ve come to ‘balance’ or ‘having it all’ (whatever that means) and that is down to joining Tribal Impact, working remotely and flexibly. Enjoying my family and developing a thriving career are happening in tandem. I’m not sacrificing one for the other.
My happiness, contentment and wellbeing has changed for the better since I’ve blurred the lines between work and home. And while I’ve shared how I’ve gained personally, there is a ton of research on the benefits of remote work and flexible work.
Leaders and employees have the evidence to challenge their policies and push them further to drive real change in their organisations.