Supporting flexible working in the workplace

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Supporting flexible working in the workplace

Flexible working isn’t anything new; it’s just one of the  things that COVID-19 put in the spotlight. With most people being forced to work from the ‘safety’ of their homes, it became clear that working full time from the office was not as necessary as we used to think, but after being cooped up  for months on end, working from home full-time turned out not be the best solution either. Flexible working is the phrase on everyone’s lips and more employers around the UK have begun trialling hybrid working models as a result. We sat down with Martina Benus, ODGroup’s Head of Data, to talk about her personal experiences with flexible working  and what the data is telling us.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working is a way of working that differs from the ‘9 to 5’ norm. It offers employees the opportunity to work in a way that suit the activities and demands of their role on any given day, whilst also giving more space for personal commitments. Dolly Parton’s hit-song from 1980 is proof that people have always sought to challenge workplace norms. Take the concept of paid leave, for example. In the UK, it only became a legal right for workers in 1939. Fortunately, times and attitudes have changed considerably since then. Employers understand that people don’t have to work in a specific way in order to be productive. More flexibility at work provides people with a better work-life balance, which in turn makes them happier and more productive.

Flexible working: pros and cons

For employees, flexible working can work wonders on their job satisfaction and work-life balance. The various working arrangements provide employees with more flexibility over the times they have to work. People have a wide variety of responsibilities and commitments that a generic ‘9 to 5’ template simply can’t accommodate. In reducing the number of conflicts between work and personal life, people’s everyday pressures are going to be alleviated, which can only have a positive effect on the work that they produce.

“As a working mother of a 2-year-old boy, I can effectively manage my time through flexible working, which gives me the freedom to work from home 1-2 days a week. It means I can take and collect my child from the nursery (8am-6pm) and don’t miss all the precious time with him.” – Martina Benus, ODGroup Head of Data

Flexible working also has many benefits for an employer. In offering your employees flexible work options, you will be promoting a much healthier and happier workforce. This will inevitably garner a dynamic company culture that people will want to return to every Monday morning. Furthermore, the flexible working opportunities will show that you value the people that work for you. Not only will this attract new talent but it will also increase you employee retention rates.

“Employees are now less likely to call in sick. If you feel under the weather, you will just work from your own home, preventing the spread of germs around the office.” – Martina Benus, ODGroup Head of Data

What is flexible office space?

Similarly to flexibly working, a flexible office will move away from the norms of a traditional office layout. The stereotype of cubicles and grey partitioning isn’t really an image that inspires collaboration or joy. With a flexible office, the goal is to optimise productivity by providing different workspaces that cater to the business’ activities. With people really taking to the idea of spending more days at home, you are going to want to find ways of encouraging your workers to come in. Too many people working from home will create an empty office, which isn’t exactly the best ingredient for an exciting company culture. We spoke with Jozefa Lewis, ODGroup’s Sustainability and Wellbeing Manager to gain some insight into the employee wellbeing aspects of realising a flexible office.

Flexible workspaces

Agile Spaces

Activity-based working is a working style that gives people the opportunity to choose a work setting that best suits the activity that they need to carry out. If your office is quite loud and one of your employees might require some quiet to get complete a certain task, having a quiet room or area in the office will allow said employee to get the work done in the office. A recent trend has brought elevated desks to the forefront of workplace wellness, with benefits to people’s posture and cardiovascular health. You could install adjustable workstations that would allow people to choose between working while standing and working while sitting down.


Spaces that encourage collaborative working between employees can have a powerful impact on the work that they produce. These types of spaces will allow people with different experiences and different skills to come together and share their wealth of knowledge. People in your team are going to motivate and inspire each other. You could introduce hot-desking to the office, which would encourage your team to mix with people with whom they ordinarily wouldn’t get the chance to. Moreover, incorporating an open-plan layout can also break down barriers between departments and facilitate communication.

FUN FACT: Open plan office layouts owe their existence in part to the Schnelle brothers who introduced Bürolandschaft (office landscaping) to Europe in 1958. The German movement endeavoured to move away from the bullpen offices and old ways of working. Their reorganisation of the office allowed for more openness, maximising office space and facilitating information sharing.


A flexible office will also include spaces that will encourage people to come together and socialise. These spaces are great for an informal chat about a work-related issue or they can simply offer people the opportunity to leave work behind them for a while and interact with their colleagues on a personal level.

“I like having alternative places where we can work collaboratively or where you could just have a quick chat with someone. I think the flexible space has made the office more sociable and encouraged more interactions.” – Jozefa Lewis, ODGroup Sustainability and Wellbeing Manager

One of the many things that people struggled with during the lockdown was the lack of social interactions. Having spaces that are welcoming and encourage people to socialise will entice more of your team to the office. More people in the office can only benefit your company culture, particularly if you incorporate breakout areas that allow people to sit down and have a chat. While organising team meetings and talking about spreadsheets can be fun, building relationships with colleagues that go beyond work can be incredibly important for morale.

Chat to our team about how your workplace can support flexible working. Get in touch

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