An exemplary approach to flexible working

Annette Hart talks to about the difference a flexible employer makes, especially during the Covid pandemic.

Homeworking desk and The Changing Work Company published a survey of remote and hybrid workers this week. Here we talk to Annette Hart from Siemens Financial Services about her flexible working pattern and how it has helped her over the years.

Annette Hart works full time with compressed hours and in the last 630+ days she has only been in the office once as her role isn’t dependent upon a specific location. Annette is clinically very vulnerable and says her employer takes their responsibility to keep employees safe extremely seriously and has a very open attitude to flexible working.

Annette took a seven-year career break when her children were little and when her youngest started school, she felt the need to get back to work and use her experience again. She joined the UK Commercial Finance business of Siemens Financial Services [SFS] as a part-time Communications Manager. After a month she was struggling because the traffic to and from the office around a busy part of the M25 from her home was exhausting after long days working.

She asked to work one day from home and her boss, now the CEO, agreed. She says the degree of trust afforded to her has meant she has always been happy to go the extra mile for her employer, for instance, sometimes she would go to the office for an extra day if there was a business need. Over the years that trust grew as did her loyalty to the company.   

After three years, Annette was promoted to Head of Marketing and Communications on a four days a week working pattern.  She soon realised that she couldn’t do such a big job working 9-5 over four days so she now works full-time between 8-6pm, compressed into four days. Occasionally she works on Fridays, but she doesn’t plan any meetings and she stresses that any work she does on that day is her choice. “It’s a very different feeling if it is your choice,” she says. 

Different ways of working

The year before the Covid outbreak, SFS moved to what they called ‘employee-led flexibility’ which enabled any employee to apply for flexible working. Covid has accelerated this, particularly when it comes to homeworking. Due to an earlier experience of working with Nordic countries and having to flex her hours and working location, Annette has long been open to different ways of working.  Before Covid, her UK Marketing team already worked four days a week, arranged their hours to ensure there was cover throughout the week and used mobile phones rather than desk phones to allow for flexible working locations, so the changes the pandemic brought were not as dramatic as for some other departments.

While Covid has normalised remote working for many in her business, Annette says there are still some challenges, particularly with hybrid working for departments which are interdependent. “We are still on a journey, like many other businesses,” says Annette. “We are identifying where things can be streamlined and improved.” Technology will be an important factor and the company is upgrading many of its meeting rooms to make hybrid working better. 

 Annette says flexible working in her team has brought many benefits. Because they work a shorter week, some of her team do voluntary work on their non-working day, for instance, helping elderly people with IT, which they find really fulfilling and which re-energises them. One team member works 7am to 5pm, four days a week, in order to have a greater work life balance to suit their family’s needs. 

 Annette says trust is the secret of a good employer, that she trusts her team implicitly and that the trust is more than repaid. “I feel really spoilt at this company. Their attitude and approach from day one has been exemplary and they have my loyalty,” she says.


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