How flexible working can change lives

change livesHalf of people asked say that the ability to work flexibly and maintain their work-life balance will be the most important future benefit to them in the workplace.  The recent Future of Employee Benefits report by Grass Roots found that two-thirds of respondents want more freedom or flexibility in the way they work.

It’s often said that the voluntary sector is a people business and one of the consequences of being an employer in the sector is that you have to think about more than pay when it comes to recruiting, motivating and retaining employees.  Values, ethics and equality all feature highly in staff consultations and surveys.  Moreover, flexible recruitment is an important tool in ensuring that charities get the benefit of a rounded set of skills and experiences and are able to develop a workforce that reflects the diverse communities they serve.

This is an approach that we have always championed at Groundwork, and we’re proud to offer a wide variety of flexible working options: flexi-time, home-working, compressed hours, job share and term-time working.  It’s part of our culture and, I believe, a key component in being able to attract good people.

But for Groundwork, promoting flexible working is not just part of our management approach, it’s also core to our mission.

Helping people find work

We’re a charity that’s in the business of changing places and changing lives in some of the most challenged and challenging communities across the UK.  One of the ways we do this is by helping people find work.  Often we’re supporting people with limited experience of work, with few role models or with a range of personal and social barriers to employment – from caring responsibilities to physical or mental health conditions.

Most don’t lead lives that will fit neatly into 9-5 boxes.  Many will have difficulty making a transition from a life without work to full-time hours.  However, our programmes show that the single most important factor in helping them improve their confidence and raise their aspirations is an employer demonstrating a belief in their potential and a commitment to help them develop and prosper.

The simple equation is that the more employers welcome and support flexibility in the workplace, the more lives organisations like Groundwork will be able to change.

Flexible working in practice

Darrell joined our team in Wigan in February 2015 as a general handyman, working 20 hours a week.  He was looking for a part-time job because he worked for a few hours a week helping out a local charity and was keen to continue honouring his commitment with them.  We worked with Darrell to develop a work pattern that suited him/her and has never looked back.

“Having other commitments outside of work doesn’t make me any less committed to my job,” he said.  “In fact, I think it helps me do my job better because I’ve got a good work/life balance.  Having an employer that recognises this and is prepared to offer flexible working makes me feel valued and supported.

“My hours may be part time, but my commitment to Groundwork is 100%”

Graham Duxbury is chief executive of Groundwork UK, a national charity dedicated to creating better places, improving people’s prospects and promoting greener living and working.

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