Flexibility case study – BVN
BVN outlines some of the initiatives that have worked for them in their transition to the All Roles Flex model and now a Hybrid Working Model.
BVN began life 95 years ago in Toowoomba, Queensland, and now numbers 345 people, with studios in Sydney, Brisbane, New York and London.
Using the Champions of Change Flex Policy document as a basis, BVN set about creating a more detailed and bespoke set of guidelines reflecting the needs of our people. Over a number of years, we used the feedback from those on a variety of flexible arrangements to establish the challenges faced by the individuals and the teams. What became evident is the necessity of providing clarity on process of how to apply for a flex arrangement, defining the variety of arrangements (not just working from home), reiterating that flex is open to everyone and reinforcing that each arrangement is subject to a bi‐annual review to ensure they are working for all parties. This gives everyone confidence and comfort on the process and enables a consistent approach to each application.
After the publication of the guidelines, we held a series of weekly clinics for a month to explain in detail the intent and process of the guidelines and answer any questions. We published the document and a synopsis on our intranet to ensure transparency and easy access.
Visibility around flex
A number of us in the leadership team are very open about our flexible arrangements – we do this through giving full access to our diaries (no privacy settings so if I’m collecting the kids or at an appointment you can see it in my diary!). We also encourage and lead by example by updating our profiles on intranet with our flex arrangements as part of our personal biography. We believe this empowers others and demonstrates we can successfully progress our careers while utilising flex arrangements. The visibility of leadership team members utilising flex arrangements has a significant impact in terms of giving our people confidence to explore flex options as confirmed in a survey we did seeking feedback from studio on my performance as Studio Director – people stated it was reassuring to see my ‘own’ flex arrangement by setting a positive example for others.
There was low levels of engagement early on but with persistence and leadership it was great to see the level of participation grow over 18 months and with it the openness/ transparency of the users. This willingness to share how you balance work and life is really important to foster a culture that supports flexibility. It also acknowledges the challenges of juggling life and work and reinforces that it’s not something to be ashamed or worried about.
We encourage everyone to develop the habit of using a tool (best suited to your culture and point on your flex journey) to grow your collective confidence to foster a healthy work culture underpinned by balance – recognising that we are all in different phases of our lives and balance looks different to everyone!
Feedback and surveys
Avoid tipping your policy into the practice and forgetting about it. Successful implementation is key, and you have to live it. Seek feedback and action it. Use the six-monthly flex survey to gauge sentiment within the practice around flexibility and use this feedback to amend the policy and ensure it’s reflective of the current context (society/industry/ culture).
Transparency for all
The other device which has had a huge impact is the creation of a daily all staff email confirming everyone’s whereabouts. This is generated by logging in to a BVN ‘Whereabouts’ google form and noting any reason for not coming into the studio, going out during the day or if you are coming in after 9.30am. The form automatically generates the email and links with the leave register, thus providing a full picture of people on leave, sick leave, parental leave, working from home, site visits, doctors’ appointments, tutoring and school drop offs – everything! It reinforces that flex is not just about working from home or for people with caring responsibilities and takes away the stigma of being open about reasons for bringing balance to your life. The participation rates are very high and the reasons for people’s movements are expanding all the time as everyone embraces the transparent process.
Different ways of working
BVN is committed to fostering a highly creative, collaborative and supportive work environment. The impact of the pandemic has created a unique opportunity for us to trial working differently including working from home. Through this period of necessity, we have been able to assess the positive and negative aspects on BVN, teams, individuals and projects.
The role of the studio
Collective creativity is at the core of everything we do. It fuels our business, our shared passions and keeps us connected to each other. Coming together physically sparks our creativity. Going forward, we see our studios as hubs for dynamic engagement – a place to create and share ideas. Our studio is where we come together as an organisation, as a team, see our colleagues and friends, and engage and inspire our clients and collaborators. The studio gives us access to things we don’t have at home – the workshop, materials, pin up space, great technology, rooms to meet, optimum desk set ups, events and social activities. It also gives us space and time away from home and engages us in the city. The studio is where we understand that we belong.
Working outside the studio
We also recognise that we can do some of our work outside of the studio. Working outside of the studio helps us balance our personal lives and wellbeing. It gives us the chance to take back the time we spend commuting and redirect that time into the day to flow as we need to. Working outside the studio can help us balance our focused work with the collaborative work we do in the studio.
Hybrid working model
Our goal is to give everyone the best of both worlds, so we are resetting the way we work at BVN to a Hybrid Working Model. This model will be reviewed on a periodic basis and may be subject to change.
To find out more about BVN’s flex implementation, contact Brian Clohessy. For more information on incorporating flexibility into practice, see our other Flexibility case studies, Flexibility Resources, What is Flexibility & Why Does it Matter?, and How to Create an Effective Flex Policy.