The pitfalls of flexible working and how to avoid them

The pitfalls of flexible working

The world is changing too fast to think you’ll be working in the same role for long and the notion of a career for life is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. One estimate suggests that 65% of children starting primary school today will end up working in jobs that currently don’t even exist. In addition to the changes affecting permanent employment, freelancing is on the increase as people opt for a more flexible working lifestyle and swap the morning commute for a desk at home or a local coffee shop.

On a day to day basis, those working in conventional 9 to 5 jobs are also experiencing a shift in working style as flexible working, part-time hours, working from home and hot-desking (hot-desking policies often driven by cutting overheads as flexible working and an increasing part-time workforce means less desk space is needed) are becoming increasingly common.

We no longer need to meet people face-to-face in real life to get work done. Technology is a massive enabler to remote working for full-time employees and freelancers, for example, there’s plenty of free video conferencing options to choose from as well as sites like Fiver springing up where freelancers can get paid their expertise from anywhere and to anywhere in the world.

There’s a ton of benefits of working at any time from anywhere to freelancers, business owners and employers, but like any new system or way of working there are realities that get overlooked. For example;

It can be lonely working from home. I know this from personal experience.  When I first went from working in an office to working at home it hit me. I really missed my colleagues. I missed being able to bounce ideas and sense check things with them. If you work from home you must be able to deal with being on your own for long periods of time and if you are an employer you have a duty of care to staff to make sure they can manage the isolation of working from home.

Stress levels are rising as flexible working means we don’t switch off from work. We constantly check our phones, answer our emails and update our social media. This constant ‘being on’ is not good for our physical or mental health.

Hot-desking increases germs and illness in the office. According to the reputable publication, The Sun Your desk could be harbouring 400 times more germs than a toilet seat”. Sensationalist perhaps, but the incidence of germs spread around the office is greater when you are hot-desking and using different computers than when you keep your germs to themselves at your own desk.  

Your employees might object. I’m an advocate of hot-desking to create the water-cooler moments that spark innovation and creativity. However, water cooler moments rely on people speaking to each other. When people resent being told to hot-desk they often withdraw and don’t interact with their new colleagues around them. If a hot-desking policy isn’t implemented with an understanding of the current culture and care isn’t taken to involve employees from the start of the process, you can end up with a culture clash that causes so much disruption and upset it can do more harm than good.

There are solutions

If you work from home schedule your day carefully to ensure you do have conversations with other people, build a support network so you do have people to bounce ideas with, for example, join a mastermind group or get a mentor.

Put systems in place to not check your phone at all hours of the day and night and turn off notifications outside of working hours.

If you work in an organisation get some cleaning cloths (or ask your employer to provide them) for the keyboard and desk to stop the spread of germs.

If you are implementing a hot-desking or working from home policy carefully consult with employees and consider the culture shift required to make it work before piling in.

This changing face of work is one of the reasons that I’ve up the Lucidity Network  – whether you work for yourself or in an organisation it’s a ready-made professional support network that combines a mix of face-to-face meet-ups, online toolkits and connections to an energizing community that accelerates your progress so that you get the results you want.

Sign up to the waiting list to be the first to know when the Network is open for new members. In the meantime you can join the Lucidity Community free Facebook group  for clearer thinking and better results.  

Why this octogenarian is engaged

1942 photo of Genevieve (age 7) leading "Molly", the pony with two evacuees on her

At a Lucidity Network meeting, a member asked me directly why I am still so energetically engaged at age 83. I did give some reasons, but recognised that the answers are complex and that other people are surprised or puzzled at the level of my engagement. I decided that for my own and others’ sakes I should reflect on my motivators.

In Japan, in the 1970’s, I realised that I should record my personal observations about health and other experiences and that could be valuable to other people in the future. My accumulative and updating journal ‘Resources: sources and resources for occupational health’ in the 1980’s was indeed a practical attempt to make my professional observations available widely.

When I was elected as a councillor, in the London Borough of Hounslow, I decided that rather than health and education “which I know about”, I would do planning. Open House London offered excellent training as did TfL (Transport for London). Their training and ‘councillor‘ status gave me the confidence to contribute in other professional groups where I was often the only ‘political elected’ person or representative of local government.

Resulting from my research for Resources and beyond, I have followed threads on health, environment, third sector (for example NCVO), and others. I have done biblical translations and Bible-related content, and created a dictionary, that is to be available as open source, and is suitable for teachers and students of English as a second or additional language. I’ve followed KTN and Innovate UK from the early days. Since becoming a councillor, I have also engaged with local government and national government information sources.

After a long period of illness, pneumonia and sequelae in 2009-10 I started to engage or re-engage within something like a five-mile radius. I had moved to Hillingdon after selling my maisonette on the day that I had been elected as a councillor in Hounslow, so had not built strong local roots. The social worker at the hospital suggested that I join the U3A, an Age UK social group and activities at the local Leisure centre. I did those things.

To facilitate my rehabilitation, my church leader wanted me to re-order the church library and voluntarily work in the office each week, which I did. Supervision, feedback and related engagement were invisible. When the church’s new office and community room were being refurbished last year – that stopped. In spite of enquiries, the library is still in boxes, and there has been no discussion about possible resumption.

After being with the Age UK social group for over a year I moved to being a volunteer in an ‘Aging well’ group where I was able to express my creativity. I joined the U3A Science, Geology and Digital photography groups but gradually discontinued after about three years. Physical distance and the exclusive social climate discouraged me. After about three years I gradually desisted from both in favour of walking, especially in a short-lived walking group, that went outside my normal range.

As I regained confidence I cruised, to enjoy a Christian history theme, around the British Isles and eighteen months later cruised, with the same captain, to biblical sites in the Mediterranean. Both cruises were very personally affirming with great personal engagement.

I did attend some professional meetings, as earlier, and have continued that engagement that is growing again now. I started to attend some London Borough of Hillingdon meetings. However, still being a newcomer to the borough made engagement difficult.

I hosted a highly qualified nurse from Papua New Guinea for the six-month duration of her one day a week course in tropical medicine. We exchanged experiences and knowledge. We walked miles together and she was amazed as my ‘dead’ vine and other trees gradually displayed their full glory in the especially long spring. I saw our beautiful natural environment through new eyes.

While attending an older people’s consultation group at the Civic Centre I signed up to BORG (Brunel Older People’s Reference Group). That engagement has been very personally rewarding. BORG invited us to an event to discuss a research project (and they fed us). A few weeks later we get a letter describing the research project and participant requirements. If eligible, we were encouraged to sign up. When the study was finished we got an invitation to the report day. Several universities or other groups may get involved (and they feed us!). As the most proactive BORG member, I now attend lots of other events at the University and am gradually being rewarded by growing engagement and recognition.

I participated in a Brunel research study on loneliness in the elderly. I noted that digital photography was increasing the quality, intensity and interest of my observations, especially of the natural and built environment. That allowed engagement with the environment but not proper engagement with people, which was becoming more difficult.

I lost my closest female friend, my adopted brother’s wife, in 2009, and after five or so years in various care homes, my older sister and my former room-mate, in early 2018. So, the people who really knew me have gone.

When the Age UK ‘Aging well’ group closed I moved to a group of mainly Punjabi speaking women. where I join in the exercises, move lots of chairs, and usually play Rummikub ‘open handed’ with one to three group members.

There are sometimes two or more weeks in the summer and at Christmas when engagement stops. Yes, one does get invited out on Christmas Day. I usually carve the turkeys at St John’s, West Ealing for the ‘soup kitchen’ Christmas dinner but then go to a home for the rest of the day. I also call available people together for a muddy walk between Christmas and the New year, ploughman’s lunch and board games afterwards.

At some point, I realised that when I went to a meeting ‘in town’ (London), I built in exercise including cardio exercise by walking up the escalators and stairs. I also realised that organisers were glad to welcome and engage with attendees. Also, that at London meetings one often met with and could engage with leaders, especially, the professors at the BCS Women and related meetings. I use my Freedom pass and started to look for more frequent events ‘in town’.

Knowing that one will have one or more meaningful engagement in which one can offer some useful contribution brings me deep pleasure.

Thank you, Lucy and Lucidity Network, for enabling such purposeful engagement even between the physical meetings!

Genevieve is the oldest (and one of the most engaged!) members of Lucidity Network, if you need a hand reawakening your mojo come join our free Facebook community dedicated to clearer thinking for better results. You’ll also be privy to upcoming events and find out when the network is open to new members.

Genevieve M Hibbs former: nurse (general and occupational health), midwife, Christian missionary, lecturer, elected councillor, mayor and a member of the Lucidity Network.