Why flex innovation matters

The pandemic has enhanced trends that were already there, but should turbo charge innovation in flexible working.

Business hand holding glowing light bulb.


This week will be dominated by the Chancellor’s statement and worries about the impact on public spending and everyone’s pocket. We are most definitely being prepared for bad news and, already, large swathes of the public sector have balloted for strike action. Covid has made things worse, but the causes of the various economic crises we are facing have much longer roots.

When it comes to how we work, Covid has had a huge range of impacts in all sorts of areas, but in many cases it has underlined trends that were already apparent. Take flexible working. Many companies were already doing hybrid, although on a much smaller scale, before the pandemic. Some, including workingmums.co.uk, were already remote first operations. Over the years workingmums.co.uk has evolved from work from home only, to an office [mainly for sales] to a more hybrid model using a co-working space with team members coming in once a month and being able to book a desk any time. There are challenges, but the benefits are many, including have a broader geographical spread of workers.  The main one is that people with caring responsibilities can keep working. Many colleagues have been with the company for years. That means the retention, not just of people, but of knowledge and relationships, enabling us to progress and flex to the cascade of challenges that the world has been throwing us in the last decades.

The other day I was talking to a law firm which was ahead of the game on the four-day week, well before the world campaign and trial which was launched recently. The aim of the four-day week is to incentivise productivity by offering people what they most value – more time. Those signed up work fewer days, but for no less pay.

The law firm was not only ahead on that, launching its trial in January 2020, but before that they had already looked at innovative ways to incentivise increased productivity, for instance, proposing to let the team work for one month from Lanzarote. Staff members could choose whether to go and they didn’t have to go for the whole month. The woman I spoke to went for half term with her mum who did the babysitting while she worked. Team members could work flexi hours so they could enjoy the sun. It must have worked because the firm is considering doing it again in addition to the four-day week, although they admit that is not without challenges. A temporary work move to Lanzarote, capitalising on the spirit of digital nomadism, may not be feasible for most, but it shows how companies can innovate if they choose to do so – and also the important role that fun plays in building team spirit.

There has been so much focus on mental health in recent years. So many people are anxious and fearful and there is much to be anxious and fearful about. But anxiety and fear are so much worse when you are alone. While not everyone can – or might want to – work in Lanzarote, it just shows how important putting people and community at the heart of work, making work more than an endless list of things to be done, and doing something unexpected can boost people’s morale, team spirit and productivity.

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