Proctor and Stevenson uses flexible working plan to improve wellbeing

Marketing and communications agency Proctor and Stevenson introduced a five-pronged flexible working plan for its 70 UK-based employees in March 2019, to reflect employee demand around work-life balance, as well as bolster retention and industry competitiveness.

The plan, which was developed in conjunction with consultancy and recruitment firm Flexology, targets five areas of flexible working. For example, the organisation implemented daily core hours between 10am and 4.30pm, outside of which employees can choose their own start and finish times.

The policy also accommodates those who travel for business; if staff have been travelling for work purposes and arrive home late in the evening, they can start work the next day at 10am. Previously, Proctor and Stevenson operated a strict 9am to 5.30pm working day.

The organisation also amended its lunch break from the rigid 1pm to 2pm structure it had in place prior to March 2019; now, employees can take their break between 12pm and 2pm. Staff can extend their hour break if required, for example if they wish to go to the gym, making up the time earlier or later in the day.

In addition, Proctor and Stevenson has made provision for all employees to work from home, if needed. Previously, only some of the workforce were able to do so.

Its flexible working plan was launched based on employee feedback, gathered through internal one-to-one performance review meetings between managers and their direct reports. These are conducted on a weekly, monthly, bi-monthly or annual basis, depending on the specific individual and team. In these meetings, employees are asked what the business could change in order to make staff happier at work.

Proctor and Stevenson also gathered feedback from exit interviews, as well as from candidates undergoing its recruitment process.

The common theme apparent in every area of the talent pool was a demand for better work-life balance, in line with, or superior to, rival agencies, says Caroline Beardkins, HR manager at Proctor and Stevenson.

“We’ve got a lot of people with young families here, so people just wanted to be able to occasionally take the kids to school rather than asking somebody else to do that,” she explains. “Likewise, we’ve got employees who have older parents who need some elements of care, and [this gives staff] flexibility to work from home when they need to be with a parent, rather than them having to take a day or two off work in order to be there with them.”

As well as impacting work-life balance, the flexible working plan also aims to influence employees’ mental wellbeing and the organisation’s culture, by giving them additional trust and autonomy.

“It’s a cultural shift in terms of the trust that we are demonstrating [in] our team and I think everybody’s benefited from that,” Beardkins says. “It feels like the kind of business [employees] want to be in, the type of environment that [staff] want to work in.”

Despite positive anecdotal responses to the flexible working plan, it is a constant work-in-progress; the organisation consistently takes on board employee feedback in order to tweak and refine the policy, ensuring that it accommodates the needs of as many of its workforce as possible.

For example, since the launch, Proctor and Stevenson has amended the home working element, to ensure that employees give their teams at least 24 hours’ notice before a working-from-home day, excepting emergency situations.

“We’re always evolving it and making sure that it’s fit for purpose because it’s something that will always change. It will never be a fixed policy,” Beardkins concludes.

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