Conflicting needs stop frictionless flexibility at work

Parents, managers and leader expect different things from flexible working, creating tension.

frictionless flexibility


Flexible working needs to balance the requirements of all stakeholders – not just one group – in order to be truly successful, says From Another, which helps organisations and individuals manage flexible work.

With three main stakeholder groups – parents, managers and leaders – having different expectations from flexible working, there’s a danger that opposing needs can result in friction and dissatisfaction leading to reduced productivity and low retention rates.

Jess Lancashire, CEO of From Another, said, “Flexibility is not a one-way street. It needs to be broken down into different perspectives so we’re not just focusing on one group, but all three. It’s about looking at the set of different, nuanced relationships and looking at how you can balance those different needs. It’s important to find ways to empower team members to articulate their needs and then find mechanisms to help balance these against the needs of the organisation.”

Following 110 hours of listening exercises over a 12-week period where From Another heard from 350 stakeholders about attitudes towards flexible working arrangements, potential conflicts of interest between all three main stakeholder groups were revealed. This provides clues as to how organisations can implement frictionless approaches to flexible working.

The From Another Frictionless Flexibility #1: Balancing the Needs of Employees and Managers report revealed that of the 70% of working parents who had access to flexible work arrangements, only 57% agreed that these arrangements were adequate for their needs. Additionally, 81% of managers agreed that managing flexible work requires a different skillset to managing non-flexible work arrangements, however 44% did not feel they had the right training, tools and support for their needs.

The research also found that flexibility friction can be reduced by investing in relationships and training, being clear about objectives and agreeing boundaries of flexibility in advance.

The From Another report also highlights the imbalance within organisations when offering flexibility, as more than half of managers (55%) say flexible work is available to employees at different levels. This has an impact on equity and trust – lesser-known but crucial factors that often outweigh the emphasis on the specific time and place of work.

Lancashire explained, “Trust and equity play key roles in harnessing the benefits of flexible work while minimising the disbenefits. Trusting employees to manage their time and complete work in a way that suits them best encourages them to take ownership of their responsibilities and perform at their highest potential. When it comes to equity, organisations can provide, for instance, additional family leave days for parents to manage their children’s sickness. This inclusivity sends a strong message that the organisation values the diverse needs of its employees.

“By transparently communicating the rationale behind such benefits, organisations can help non-parent employees understand the importance of supporting working parents and how it contributes to a healthier, more balanced workplace overall. This also works towards resolving some of the problems faced when it comes to bias in the workplace.”

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