by Sean Blanks, marketing director of www.cartridgesave.co.uk
Did the news that that every employee now has the right to request flexible working strike fear into your heart? It needn’t.
We decided to introduce flexible working five years ago, specifically for our team of programmers. Employees with this skill are notoriously hard to recruit and so we decided to add it to the recruitment package, feeling it would be perceived as a perk that would suit their traditionally more unsociable hours of late morning and late nights. Plus, it came at a low cost to the business. We implemented a simple IT system that allowed staff to self-monitor time.
Before long, the positive effect was evident and we decided to roll it out as a benefit to all our technical staff.
Primarily we decided to extend not to recruit but to retain. We want our staff to be happy. Staff see it as a bonus – something they wouldn’t get in other companies – and therefore it’s something that’s respected.
Before implementing though it’s worth ensuring understanding how you can make flexible working, work for you. Roll out helped initially because we take a realistic view on work. We don’t clock watch our employees because we know that just because you’re at your desk, it doesn’t mean you’re working.
Also the type of business we’re in means we don’t expect people to do more than their contracted hours. They can make their hours work around them without it impacting on productivity.
Thirdly, keeping staff motivated is hugely important to our success. After all, for most,cartridgesave.co.uk is a job not a passion. Therefore anything we can do to make their work fit around their lives is important.
In terms of conditions, we do stipulate that staff are present each day for set cover hours. This means that the office is always adequately managed and we don’t get into a situation where staff clock up a free day each week. Instead the maximum complete day off they can claim is one a month.
We also outline the flexible hours policy, tailored to our requirements, within the company handbook. This forms part of their contract. Furthermore staff self-manage through a clocking-in system so everyone knows exactly where they stand.
Around 75% of all eligible staff opt in.
It’s worked out well in the sense half like to start early and the other half like to stay late. Interestingly they all opt in to avoid the traffic. However, it also allows them to manage their time around dentist appointments and hospital visits, without me having to approve every request.
Needless to say, we can’t offer flexible working to everyone. For example it doesn’t work for call centre staff as we need to have the phones manned to the times customers demand. However we always ensure we explain why and on the whole this is accepted as part of their job.
The only negatives occur when the odd employee fails to manage their own time effectively – ending up with minus hours. If they can’t make it up, the best solution is to get them to use holiday time.
Overall we’ve really benefitted from offering flexible working. Because we have been able to mould it to suit us, we have ended up with a low cost staff perk that helps us retain and recruit staff.
Sean Blanks is the Marketing Director of printer cartridge companywww.cartridgesave.co.uk. By taking a systematic trial and improvement approach, Sean and Managing Director Ian Cowley have created a Sunday Times Fast Track100 e-retailer which manages 30,000 orders a month and is among the UK’s fastest growing printer supplies retailer in terms of sales.