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What does Flex mean to you?

In a flexible world, everyone works differently and for different reasons, and so for this year’s National Work Life Week, we’re asking people to share – what does flexible working mean to you? 

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Published: 20 Jan 2015

CiC Employee Assistance, Joint Winner 2014, The Childcarescheme Top Small Family Friendly Employer Award

CiC Employee Assistance is an employee assistance provider, specialising in trauma and critical incident management, which delivers programmes to organisations covering 450,000 employees across the globe. Their support lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provide a service to all sectors from the NHS to corporate banks.

CIC’s focus on flexibility has been crafted both from their need to operate round the clock but also from their base as a clinical service. Just as they operate to support organisations and their staff, CIC want to support and listen to their own employees. For Kate Nowlan, Chief Executive of CiC Employee Assistance, it’s always been important to offer flexible working to employees, giving them the opportunity to make changes to the way they work in order to respond to short-term or long-term events and issues in their roles and responsibilities outside of the workplace: “From CiC’s perspective we’ve always been open to flexible working requests from employees and consider each individual request against the same criteria, considering how it will impact on the business and how we can work with an employee to make a change in working hours or days, or incorporating more time working from home”.

Kate says her job is “to support employees to be as creative as they like” when it comes to flexible working. While recognising that the organisation has to function and that not all types of flexibility suit all roles, with discussion, employees and their managers work out what is best for them, the team and the organisation. Team work has been key to their flexibility success. There are three distinct teams in CIC (Clinical, Sales and Administration) but all teams support each other and staff cover for each other to get the job done.

Enabling and supporting people with childcare and eldercare responsibilities are a central feature of CiC’s flexibility. There are 30 staff but at least half are part-time. As Kate says “as 74% of the workforce is female, it’s been natural that some flexible working requests have been related to motherhood and childcare. But at CiC we also readily acknowledge that flexible working goes much further than helping an employee to balance childcare and other caring needs”.

Achieving work-life balance is another aim. Many staff work from home and CIC has invested in secure technology to enable this. Account managers, for example, regularly travel and the company is keen that they work from home when they can to enable work-life balance to be achieved. Further education courses and other professional qualifications are also supported through flexibility. Kate estimates that one-third of flexible working requests relate to education and training.

CIC have established a mature relationship with staff. The work is demanding but support is there and staff work in the best way for them and for their colleagues in an environment of trust and support. As a result staff turnover is very low. As Kate says: “In my experience, if as an employer, you can actively show you’re prepared to be flexible with your employees, they’re much more likely to give back to you in return and be much more engaged with their work. The impact of this on performance and productivity is obvious and something that shouldn’t be underestimated.”