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  • Stu Capel

FLEXING OUR FLEXIBILITY MUSCLES

We’ve had over two years of moving COVID-19 restrictions and an inconsistent way of working over this time. Mandatory home working, followed by a return to office, to work from home again, since the pandemic began in 2020.


As a result, Publicis Groupe and Spark has adopted a Hybrid approach to working that is based on the commonly used principle (across many other industries and businesses) of being in the office ‘more often than not’, with home or remote working permitted the rest of the time.


However, as we hopefully leave the pandemic behind us and re-establish flexible working in our daily lives, it’s important to distinguish Hybrid working or Working from Home (WFH) from “Flexible Working”.


Flexible Working recognises that we have differing needs and lives to balance, coupled with a growing appreciation that others may perform best in different environments or with differing schedules. This might mean working different hours, working remotely on a permanent basis, or factoring in personal appointments into our working week.


Publicis Groupe and Spark Foundry were early adopters of flexible working, establishing “Publicis Liberté” well before COVID. There are six behaviours that help everyone to lean-in, support and get the most out of flexible working, and now is the time to flex these flexibility muscles again.


Speaking from my own personal experience, I have been successfully working flexibly at Spark Foundry since the beginning of 2019, with full backing from Imogen (our CEO) and Matt (COO) and down to every team member that I work with.


My son Finn, who is on the Autism Spectrum, requires ongoing support that means my wife Jacqui and I need flexible schedules to accommodate Finn’s weekly therapy appointments. We try to consolidate these on a Wednesday, which we affectionally describe in our household as ‘juggle day’. It involves back-to-back appointments for Finn on the day and therefore the day out of day-care home with us.


Jacqui and I typically split our days in two halves to share responsibility for Finn’s needs whilst delivering on our work commitments.


I have adopted the six Publicis Liberté behaviours to successfully work flexibly and there is no reason why everyone else can’t use these to their advantage as well:


1. Set Your Boundaries: On ‘juggle day’, the only time I’m not accessible to Spark Foundry are Finn’s actual appointment times (2-3x 45 min sessions). He needs my full attention and support to make the most of the therapy time. These appointments are fixed in my diary – no appointments will come in over the top of these – my phone is on silent, and nothing distracts me from being ‘present’ in the room during the session.


2. Trust One Another: Arguably an outcome of the other 5 behaviours, as trust is earnt, but this is also foundational to successful flexible working. You will be so much better set up for success if there is reciprocal trust in place and you can focus on doing what you need to do. Trust that you and your team will deliver what needs to be achieved, trust that you will be accessible to your team and peers, and trust that these boundaries will be respected set me up for success.


3. Focus on Outputs: We are typically not an agency of clock watchers, but it is super critical to focus on outputs for effective flexible working. After 20+ years of working, I still set myself a ‘TO DO’ list every week and have daily deliverables (including every Wednesday), where I focus on the 3 to 4 key things that I need to deliver or achieve on ‘juggle day’. I set my working schedule around achieving these. If I can achieve everything I need to for the day before therapy appointments start, great. If not, I jump back online late afternoon or incorporate evening work to ensure I have ticked everything off I need to for the day.


4. We Are All Different: As a parent of an Autistic child, nothing resonates more for me. Finn sees and experiences the world differently to a neuro typical person. It’s something I fully embrace and take great pleasure in recognising. Therefore, it is easy for me to understand we are all different, we work best in different situations and have differing needs and we need to accommodate these both in our team structures and the wider agency. Use these differences to your advantage and learn from them. Understand that what might work well for you might not suit others, and vice versa, but find common ground in your teams and be available when you all need to be together.


5. Communicate Effectively: In my opinion, when you are incorporating flexibility into your working schedule, the onus is on you to ensure that this is being communicated effectively. It is not reasonable for me to expect my peers and team members to be ‘on top’ of my schedule whether it is fixed or not. I take the responsibility to remind people of my schedule, communicate any changes that may occur and make myself available for calls, emails and Teams chats outside of therapy session times. Flexibility isn’t an excuse to disappear.


6. Use Tech to Your Advantage: It’s super important to ensure you have the right set-up for both WFH / remote working and on-the-go when working flexibly. We should all be well-versed in that now but a couple of basic examples of how I incorporate technology into my flexible working:


  • Use Teams channels for collaborating in documents and chat function for quick updates or check-ins

  • Save documents on your One Drive account so you can access remotely (not relying on Network drives)

  • Have the Teams App and work emails on your mobile device

  • Invest in a good set of Bluetooth headphones or ear buds for calls on the go

So, embrace flexibility and make it work to your advantage. Align to these six principles to set you and your team mates up for success, whilst remembering flexibility requires good muscle memory to make it work well for everyone.


Reference Source: Why flexibility is more than working from home, here’s how to do flexible working right. January 25, 2022, By: Molly Johnson-Jones


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