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Making flex work: Agree your flexible working principles

Let's begin with a reminder of the six steps for making flex work in your organisation.

  1. Define what flexible working means for your organisation

  2. Agree your flexible working principles

  3. Prepare your managers to lead flexible teams

  4. Support your people to work flexibly

  5. Tweak your culture

  6. Embed the change

If you haven't done step one, take a minute to read the first article in this series and spend some time working with leaders in your company to define flexible working.

Once you're comfortable that you can clearly articulate the definition of flexible working, it's time to move on to step two.

Step 2: Agree your flexible working principles

Many organisations jump straight to making rules around flexible working. They debate for hours about who will be allowed to work flexibly, if there will be core hours that everyone has to work, how people will communicate, etc. They quickly develop pages of policies and a never ending list of rules that are difficult to navigate.

Instead, I encourage you to start by creating flexible working principles. These principles provide high-level guidance that everyone should refer back to when making decisions around flex. Principles should be concise and easy to understand, and should make leadership's views on flex crystal clear.

Every organisation will have unique principles based on its culture, the type of work it does, and its employee value proposition. It's imperative that leaders across the organisation absolutely believe in and support these principles, and are prepared to support their teams in creating flexible work arrangements in line with the principles.

Not sure where to begin? Two of my favourite flexible working principles are:
*We trust our employees
*Have a bias towards "yes"

Once you've agreed your principles, it's time to determine which, if any, policies and rules you need to put in place around flex. Some organisations don't have any. They allow their managers to work with their staff to create flexible working arrangements that work for the individual, team, and organisation.

Depending on your industry and jurisdiction, though, you may need that next level of detail. Consider:

  • If staff are working from home or an alternative location on a regular basis, are there Work, Health, and Safety policies that apply?

  • If you work in an industry where customer interaction is required within certain business hours, how will you balance customer needs with employee flex?

  • Does your jurisdiction have laws around paying overtime to employees who regularly start or end outside standard business hours?

  • Are there union agreements in place about break times or other work requirements?

This list of considerations is nowhere near exhaustive. It's important that you talk to your Human Resources, Employee Relations, and Industrial Relations teams to ensure you're complying with relevant policies, laws, and agreements.

Outside of what's legally required, however, I encourage you to keep the rules to a minimum. If you can support your leaders and managers to make flexible working decisions in line with your principles, you'll create an environment of trust that encourages all staff to consider their flexible working options.

Practical tip: No one can remember more than 5 principles. Three is ideal. Keep it short and clear.

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