Switching to a flexible working culture

Marketing and communications company Proctors has reviewed its culture to embed flexible working at all levels. How did it make the change?


Ad hoc flexible working is the norm in many companies, but some employers are going one step further and embedding flexible working in every part of their organisation, from recruitment to senior level roles.

One firm which has recently move to a flexible working culture is Bristol-based marketing and communications agency Proctor + Stevenson [Proctors].

For the last three months it has been collaborating with flexible working specialists Flexology to design a flexible working system for the company’s 70 staff.

The aim is to improve retention and productivity at Proctors, giving employees more autonomy to manage their own time and workload.

Caroline Beardkins [pictured right], HR Manager at Proctors, says research with employees showed they wanted more autonomy over their hours. The firm has also had many queries from candidates and recruiters about the possibility of flexible working.  She says: “We have become more and more aware that, if we are to compete with other agencies in securing talent to grow our team, this is an area that we had to make improvements in.”

From consultation to measuring success

As a result of the changes introduced following the consultation, staff will be able to set their own working hours, for example, coming in early or late to improve their commute, by extending their lunch breaks or by working from home more often.

In the meantime, Flexology will work on a recruitment drive to fill available positions at Proctors with new staff attracted by the appeal of a more fluid working culture.

Having completed benchmarking as part of the consultancy programme Flexology consultant and recruiter Kristal McNamara [pictured left] has helped put in place ways to measure the new culture’s effectiveness, including expecting financial improvements based around the attraction and retention of staff.

Monthly measurements will review and monitor the new system, with continual improvements implemented through an agile approach of quick, regular changes, if necessary.

Kristal says Flexology used a five-phase process to change the work culture. This  included a research stage which included confidential one to ones with some staff and managers as well as a staff survey and the review of exit interview feedback.

Flexology held a number of leadership workshops as part of the process to ensure the goals and benefits of introducing flexible working were clear and everyone was quickly on board. A big issue was fairness and trust – staff and managers wanted to ensure all staff, regardless of role, had access to the same flexible working opportunities.

Caroline adds: “Both managers and their teams have been involved in the workshops, interviews and surveys which have led to us pinning down how best this new plan will work for our employees, business and clients, so everyone has a good understanding of its objectives and how it works day to day.  Everyone has participated in an initial launch session, and has been provided with full details, FAQs and policy on how this works for us.”

The consultation showed that the company was losing some staff because it wasn’t flexible enough and that most staff wanted to continue to work full time but with more flexibility and trust to get their hours done without excessive monitoring.


During the process, Flexology benchmarked a number of key measures, from staff satisfaction, recruitment costs and sick leave. Proctors also had their own existing productivity measures. All of this will all be reviewed on a quarterly basis so improvement can be tracked.

All roles and teams were reviewed to assess which flexible working patterns would work in which roles and  Kristal says core hours and occasional home working will be available to anyone joining the company.

For Caroline the benefits are clear.  In addition to talent recruitment and retention and greater fairness, she cites greater work life balance and improving trust and loyalty among other advantages. She says: “Flexible working enables us to look after our employees, for example by encouraging a late start the following morning after a late return home from a client meeting or trip.  We want to demonstrate our acknowledgement and thanks to our team when they take these extra steps for their clients.”

She adds that there has been no resistance to the plans to embed flexible working. She says: “We’ve had lots of positive discussions and comments from employees at all levels on how it’s been applied since launch and will continue to support the team in making it a continued success.”

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