In the last few weeks I’ve become an even bigger exponent of flexible working. (I know some of you think I'm already bordering on fanatical...)
I had a personal situation that was a real emergency and had to be prioritised above everything else. At the same time my little business exploded. We have genuinely never been busier, nor placed as many people in the timeframe, as we have in July and August. All this has coincided with the departure of a member of the team and of course the school holidays.
Cindy Gallop calls it #StartUpStress and it has been pretty hair-raising. But it was a chance to see just how flexible the company really is. We talk about flexible hiring with our corporate clients, and since March I have been in talks with the Department for Business about how businesses can design jobs that are flexible from day one. But I’d never really had to put my own company and working patterns to the test.
Here are four things I’ve not only learnt but have genuinely stress-tested in the last 3 weeks.
Where you work really is irrelevant, it’s what you produce that matters
Since setting up the company I’ve toyed with the idea of renting a WeWork space or small office for us. But this summer really has proved to me that we just don’t need it. I visit clients at their office whenever they need us, our small team stays connected by FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp or old-fashioned phone calls - sometimes multiple times in one day, and we use the AllBright members' club for anything else where we need to physically be face to face.
But I also don't work 9-5. I often work late into the night or at weekends (rarely early mornings because I usually go training in the morning, another thing I can do easily when I don’t have to factor in a 90 minute commute each morning). So even if we were in an office, it would be empty half the time.
Keep the lights on, even when no-one’s home
I am passionate to the point of obsessive about service levels for our clients and people we work with. Because we’re a new challenger recruitment firm, we have to try harder - we don't have a reputation that precedes us (yet!). We don't have teams of people but we can’t afford not to answer the phones or reply in a timely manner to enquiries as they come in. Recruitment involves a lot of coordination, logistics and manual work; from arranging interviews to proof-reading CVs, liaising with candidates and clients. Yet I work four days a week and the others work flexi-time. So I use a virtual PA who is phenomenal and keeps things under control when I’m in meetings or offline. If you want a recommendation you could do a lot worse than talk to Gillian Skendaj at SmartPA.
Tech will save us
It has certainly saved me from a forest load of paper and being chained to a desk. Every single one of our platforms is hosted in the cloud which means I can be anywhere and have access to everything I need. From our candidate database to all of our documentation. It also means that when we hire people, location is irrelevant which suddenly opens up a huge pool of talent who....wait for it....MAY NOT BE LONDON-BASED!
So we can hire the best person for the job.
Be honest and authentic; work and life don't have delineated boundaries
I haven’t needed to inform any of my clients that I was out of the office or unavailable for any period of time because for them, there has been no difference. I’m always contactable by phone and email and occasionally in the last 3 weeks where I’ve had to take a call with my 4 year-old in the background, I’ve mentioned this upfront, given an explanation to the caller and got on with business. It won’t become the way I do business with a child on the call but on occasion “personal” will interact with “professional,” because there is no more 9-5, there is no longer a boundary between work and life - it’s all just life.
Every so often it's a good idea to flex-test your business and remind yourself that although it may feel like free-wheeling round a rollercoaster, I bet you'll just find more creative ways to give your clients the service they expect.
I said earlier we’ve never been busier...I’m happy make that a challenge and try and beat that in September. If you’d like to talk about hiring a Communications, Marketing or PR professional by the end of the year, I’d love to talk to you, it just won’t be at our office!