4 factors for flexible working to actually work

It is National Flex Day tomorrow…

I'd like to take a different angle on the life of a busy mum. This blog will look at working mums in organisations and flexible working practices. If you are in the corporate world or thinking of returning to work but not sure how - this may give you some insight. Love to know your thoughts.


We know from research that:

  • implementing flexible working practices can improve staff engagement and motivation. (CIPD amongst others)

  • the benefits of flexible working are well established, from increased employee engagement to better performance (LSE and Gallup)

  • flexible working practices help retain experienced and skilled talent

  • most of the workforce are likely to need flexible working at some point in their career (www.workingmums.co.uk)

  • technology makes it increasingly easier to work flexibly

  • most roles can accommodate some sort of flexible working arrangement

  • flexible working practices can greatly increase the pool of applicants for vacant roles

We want flexibility as employees, we know flexibility works as employers but we don’t “do” flexible working practices. Over half of businesses “offer” flexible working practices but a significantly smaller number actually have them “operating” in their business according to the AWRS.

Why is there a “knowing - doing” gap with flexible working?

A number of reasons exists and I believe that underlying it all is a cultural issue in the modus operandi. This is typical for change as explained by William Bridges work. We can make a change and make flexible working “available” but until we make that internal transition, we will continue to operate in the “old way” and not capitalise on all the benefits and rewards that flexible working practices afford to us as a society.

Here are 4 factors that need to shift in the collective mindset for flexible working practices to become modus operandi.


In order for flexible working to deliver results both the manager and the employee need to activate their achievement thinking mindsets and focus on outcomes. Outcomes within direction-focused goals will focus attention on getting the job done instead of wasting time or recording inputs such as hours spent. With latitude to ethically achieve results, having an outcome focus in flexible working practices can lead to innovation in ways of working and superior results.

Connect the outcomes to a greater purpose that is meaningful to the employee will sustainably motivate them long term.


Flexible working practices are not easy to implement with a beginner. If someone is new to the core tasks in their role ie. S1 in Situational Leadership terms, they may require detailed instruction and flexible working would be impractical in the short term. This is not to say that development is not possible but it is important to be aware that there would be less flexibility during the S1 stage as both people involved would need to coordinate. Self-efficacy of the employee makes flexible working practices much easier for both the employee and manager as that mastery is present.


Connection is important because human beings social beings. Businesses operating with flexible working practices must ensure that those relatedness needs are met in the context of the business otherwise they risk disconnecting those employees.

We are hardwired to work together to achieve our goals and connect to a higher purpose; and now technology allows us to do that without physical proximity.

Technology allows us so many ways to communicate in various forums across continents and time zones that for most roles, flexible working practices are feasible. Taking advantage of technology to create connections will reinforce affiliative thinking styles and ensure strong teamwork and communication.


The most intangible yet most important factor is trust and and this is the one that is hardest to implement. People involved in flexible working practices must believe that people are inherently good. They must be humanistic. Trust must be felt both ways by all parties involved. Where there is trust, there is autonomy which leads to engagement on behalf of the employee.

This is because in flexible working practices, you do not always have contact with the other party and so as a manager you need to delegate and give autonomy to the employee. Trust is important to truly give that autonomy required to get stuff done and make flexible working practices actually work.

Close the knowing - doing gap by.

Overall a shift in mindset and culture to be more constructive is required to not just make these flexible working practices available but to make it acceptable as a way of doing business. The more we talk about flexible working practices and how it can operate and has worked, the more we will close the “knowing - doing gap” and we will set ourselves up for future success.

Start the conversation today. #FlexDAy


Shannon Young is an executive coach specialising in working mothers' wellbeing. Reach out for a chat about your situation regarding flexible working, burnout or work-life balance and let's talk about ways you can be in balance without sacrificing yourself.


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