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Workplace Wellbeing - Summer 2019

‘We want to give time back to our people when we can’

COO Jo Higgs

This August, we’re trialling shorter working hours - giving our staff the chance to recharge their batteries.

Like so many other companies in the events industry, during our busiest times of year, we ask a lot of our people: it’s a fact that long hours and significant amounts of effort go into delivering fantastic experiences for our clients. We also know that without the dedication of our people, what we do wouldn’t be possible.

So we’re keen to make sure that we give back to our people whenever we can, which is why this year we’re trialling shorter ‘summer hours’. During August, our business will be open from 10am to 4.30pm, and staff will be encouraged and supported to take advantage of these shorter hours as much as they can.

Flexible hours have been at the forefront of workplace conversations for a number of years, with increased media attention on the subject recently after MP Helen Whately introduced a bill in Parliament that would make flexible working the default for all employees (at the moment, UK employees have a right to request flexible working after 26 weeks with the same employer).

The term ‘flexible working’ means different things to different people. As a business that has a huge variety of different people playing different roles, we have to find the element of flexibility that works for each individual as well as for the company. We already encourage remote working and flexitime for some of our office-based roles, but this would present challenges for some areas of the business, such as our warehousing and logistics teams who need to be in particular locations and at specific times.

 

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The Event Concept team is comprised of over 100 highly accomplished event professionals

Other, less commonly embraced, forms of flexible working – such as compressed or annualised hours, job sharing, and part-time working – all have a role to play in our industry, and are something I’m keen to explore more. 

Speaking honestly, the seasonable and deadline-driven nature of our work makes many kinds of flexible working difficult to facilitate during our busy times. That’s why our summer hours pilot this August will be so crucial for us: we’ll be carefully measuring uptake among staff, and the satisfaction of our clients, to understand if we might be able to regularly open for shorter working days in our quieter months of January and August.

We regularly use employee engagement surveys to gauge the happiness and satisfaction of our people, and will be paying particular attention to how the summer hours might impact these measures. Truly listening to our people is something I personally feel passionate about, because it is they who understand what works and what we can do to make things work better. Our people have already told us they are looking forward to the prospect of having more free time, whether that’s to squeeze in a pre-work fitness bootcamp, or if it makes their childcare arrangements during the school holidays that bit easier.

For those who work in departments where shortening their hours might not be fully possible – such as our warehousing and logistics teams, and sales staff – we’ll be making conscious efforts to help them strike the right balance between work and free time, by introducing staggered start and finish times and encouraging shared responsibility for ensuring departments are covered at the appropriate times. The senior leadership team is also keenly aware that the example we set will play a big part in helping our people feel comfortable with the shorter working hours, so we’ll be trying hard not to be in the office too early or too late, or be answering calls or emails outside of hours unless absolutely necessary.

I’m excited to find out how our people embrace the summer hours pilot, and to learn how the shorter working days help them to better strike that work-life balance. I’ll have a keen eye on the business metrics too, and look forward to reporting on our findings – and next steps – in a future article.