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Careers Insight: Put the stress on flexibility


As flexible working is found to reduce stress, the simple steps required to implement it will generate loyalty, a strong work ethic and high productivity from employees.

May’s Mental Health Awareness Week focused on the topic of stress, providing
a great opportunity for organisations to think about how to address its causes and manage it in the workplace.

We are all aware that various things can trigger stress but recent research found an interesting link between flexible working and reduced stress levels. Employees that do not have an option to work flexibly are twice as likely to experience work-related stress as those with flexible arrangements, according to Vitality Health.

Its research revealed that those who cannot work from home or change their start or end time lose the equivalent of four days of productive working time per year due to ill-health related absence.

It also found a direct correlation between stress and travel to work. Employees with at least an hour-long commute each way are 10 per cent more likely to develop work-related stress than those with a journey of less than half an hour. Meanwhile, employees who work irregular hours are 50 per cent more likely to be stressed than those with a clear structure to their day.

So, it is not just what we do in our work but how we go about it that affects our stress and productivity levels. The good news is there are steps employers can take to help, such as providing initiatives like flexible working or time management training.

There is also a huge misconception that only women need to work flexibly. Recent research from the BBC found men feel they do not have the right to ask for such ‘privileges’. Dads who want to be more involved in the care of their children worry that asking for more flexibility could damage their career, with employers questioning their commitment. To this end, 44 per cent of dads have lied about family-related responsibilities.

We are fully committed to supporting good mental health and well-being, and offering all staff flexible working practices and support in their roles as parents and carers. So how have we done this?

Embrace a family culture

  • We ensure the idea of The Brightstar Family is at the heart of the business. We believe in supporting each other within and beyond the business walls and operating as a cohesive team.
  • We include family members in events, business achievements and milestones.
  • We believe the enjoyment and fulfilment of a good family life is key to happiness and, subsequently, success at work.

Safeguard concept of equality

  • We ensure flexible working practices are never made exclusive to particular groups.
  • We treat working fathers and mothers the same.
  • We ensure the chief executive and directors are role models in terms of being working parents and in adopting a flexible approach to work.

Here are some examples of specific support:

  • We adopt a sympathetic and flexible approach to team members supporting elderly or sick relatives, or children with special needs.
  • We offer flexible working during school holidays, non-pupil days and when children are sick.
  • We allow team members’ children to undertake work experience placements as an alternative to holiday childcare. This also supports our commitment to our Young Learners’ Programme, whereby we encourage young people to learn about the world of financial services and consider a career for the future.
  • We provide technology and facilities plus remote access to systems so that team members can work from home should the need arise.
  • We allow returners to work to adopt flexible working patterns.
  • We encourage paternity leave and allow this to be flexible.

By receiving practical support and alternatives to manage their own work-life balance, our staff can find a way of working that best enables their personal wellbeing and productivity.

People appreciate the opportunity to incorporate flexibility into their working pattern. They reciprocate through loyalty, a strong work ethic and high productivity.

Such changes in approach are simple for businesses to implement, yet the benefits for both employer and employee can be quite remarkable.

Clare Jupp is director of people development at Brightstar


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