Flexible Working Champion: Reigate & Banstead Borough Council

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In our post on 10 December ‘Do you recruit for results or hours worked?’ we referred to organisations that have embraced flexible working rights, having been quick to recognise the benefits to both the organisation and its people. You may have been left wondering – who are these organisations?

For those of you out there hunting for a job that will enable you to fit your work around your other commitments, be they children, pursuing other interests, or caring for elderly relatives, it may seem like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. We assure you these organisations do exist, and we’re pleased to say are growing in number as more on more organisations cotton on to the benefits of flexible working.

We thought it was time to give credit where it’s due by writing about the organisations who are embracing flexibility – and by this we mean they are really walking the walk, not just paying lip service to an attractive employment condition with a passing mention on the website, or clause in the contract, but with little else to back it up.

So welcome to first of our ‘Flexible Working Champions’ series of posts – focusing on organisations we have worked with, or know well, who are making a work-life balance more than just a pipe dream for their employees.

Green belt council leads the way

Not far from us here in Oxted , is the borough council of Reigate & Banstead. Home to approximately 137,800 people in an area of metropolitan green belt, it employs approximately 560 people and is one of the largest employers in the area.

An early adopter of flexibility – flexible hours have been offered to employees since 2002 – last year saw the council go a step further and create a ‘Great Workplace Strategy’. The aim of the strategy was to create a work place that staff felt positive about and inspired by through a change in working practices, encouraging more mobile working and using office space more effectively.

A key part of the strategy was introducing hot-desking and creating open plan working areas so that we could make more efficient use of the desk space.

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“We found that for much of the time desks at the Town Hall were unoccupied due to staff being in meetings or working away from the office,” says Cllr Eddy Humphreys, Portfolio Holder for Economy and Jobs at the council. “A key part of the strategy was introducing hot-desking and creating open plan working areas so that we could make more efficient use of the desk space.”

Agile working presents its own challenges however, and the necessary technology and resources need to be in place for it to have the intended impact. So to make sure staff could work flexibility from any location the council introduced a range of modern working tools including an improved wireless network and email, the ability to work remotely, and updated building security to ensure staff could work flexibly from any location.

Of course the new environment means a considerable change in working practices and the new strategy outlines what is expected from everyone – no hogging desks, being willing to work at any desk within a given team area, being sensitive to colleagues who are on phone calls by using meeting rooms or one of the many informal meeting areas instead of having conversations around desks, as well as keeping desks clean and clearing them at the end of each day.

Motivated staff and reduced costs

As a result of introducing the technology to support these flexible practices the council has been able to reduce its office floor space by 61% generating substantial cost savings. Ultimately it is also enabling the council’s staff to fit their working life around their lifestyle and to be more efficient, motivated and inspired – the cost of which cannot yet be measured. It’s a win-win for both staff and management.

As head cheerleaders for the advantages of flexible working we love hearing about organisations that are putting all the resources and tools in place to make flexibility an ethos everyone in the organisation lives by.

These employers know that embracing flexibility is attractive to talented new recruits, has been linked to both improved employee retention 1)Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, survey of flexible working provision and update 2012 and engagement 2)Flexibility drives productivity, Regus 2012 (pdf), reduces absenteeism 3)Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, survey of flexible working provision and update 2012, and ultimately can improve productivity 4)Flexibility drives productivity, Regus 2012 (pdf).

Is your organisation interested in following this example and getting flexible? Talent Gateway works with businesses to provide flexible recruitment and business support services. Contact us if you would like to discuss how we can help your business grow or if you know an organisation who you think deserves to be a ‘Flexible Working Champion’.

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