Flexibility case study – Woods Bagot
Woods Bagot explains the process of committing to increased flexibility and outlines some of the benefits and challenges as they move forward into the ‘new normal’.
Woods Bagot is a global design and consulting practice working across its network of 16 studios. The practice was founded in Adelaide by Edward John Woods and Walter Bagot in 1869, spanning over 150 years.
We value the diversity of our people and celebrate our ability to work effectively across the globe and across time-zones. We strive to promote a culture of trust and support for individuals to perform their roles and responsibilities with a high level of professionalism. We also recognise that our people have varied and changing personal circumstances, motivations and needs at different stages of their lives and careers. We live by our values and support developing lifelong dynamic careers.
As Woods Bagot promotes a flexible work environment we established a Flexible Working Arrangement Policy, which benefits parents as well as all employees requesting or requiring flexible working arrangements for their life circumstances. When requested by an employee, flexible working options are considered in the form of formal or informal flex. Formal Flex allows employees to access a broader range of flexibility options including working in an alternative/remote location and/or working outside the standard office hours. This allows employees to continue in our hybrid working environment and enabling the rich studio culture engagement while being on their terms.
Informal Flex includes temporary and irregular arrangements that can be negotiated on an as needed basis, without the necessity for contractual negotiations. Informal Flex is designed to help balance ad hoc personal commitments and assist with supporting a healthy work life balance, in addition to meeting work commitments.
An employee who requires Informal Flex speaks with their manager or project leader as soon as the need is required. This arrangement requires clear communication between employee and manager or project leader and team.
Formal Flex allows an employee to access more permanent structured and ongoing flexible work options.
To access formal flex arrangements, employees outline the suitability of the proposed flexible working arrangements within their current role, how this enables them to continue meeting project deliverables and does not impact the team. This is submitted to the employee’s manager and/or project leader for consideration and discussion.
Like the nature of project work within a global environment, the formal flex agreement needs to be continually reviewed as project requirements shift, and needs to flex due to the nature or phase of the project. The manager and/or project leader is able to discuss working arrangements and considerations over time.
Flexibility and the ‘new normal’
It is important to implement a policy and procedure that fits the language and culture of the organisation. Flex has moved from being a gendered issue to a culture issue. To support gender equality in our industry we need to solve flexibility as a workplace culture issue where we make flexibility work for employees and embrace this shift. The COVID environment has shown that flex is possible for all roles. As we go back to the ‘new normal’ the challenge is to not fall back into our previous patterns and expectations of ‘presenteeism’ or a virtual version of ‘always available’ culture.
The challenge is also how we successfully integrate teams that are split between remote working and studios that still allows for equal opportunities and inclusiveness and doesn’t bias one over the other.
We know from conducting annual engagement surveys that one of the top priorities is work life balance and many see that flexible work practices are key to establishing trust and autonomy between staff, and leadership and accountability for the performance of work. Flexible work arrangements rely on improved communication and clarity of roles and responsibilities. Working flexibly is no longer a perk. It’s now an expectation.