Every year in the NHS, we undertake a staff survey. It seeks to measure a range of different topics and the results can be analysed on a national level. One of these topics is flexible working.
Flexible working is incredibly important in the NHS and is a key element of any staff engagement strategy.
Last week I triggered a discussion with an HRD around the uptake of flexible working within their Trust (they had not performed well in this area on their most recent staff survey). I shared the findings from an assignment I undertook last year with another NHS Trust. I had been asked to explore the reasons why the uptake of flexible working was so poor within this organisation. The outcome was that staff were working flexibly; they just didn’t realise it, and they hadn’t formalised any flexible working agreements. As a result, the staff hadn’t ticked the “I work flexibly” box on the survey.
In response to these findings, this Trust invested in promotional materials and raised awareness of the different types of flexible working that are available to staff. In this year’s staff survey, the Trust scored higher than last year on flexible working.
I’ve been asked to explore this issue with another Trust this year – who are expecting similar results: they believe they do have a significant number of staff working flexibly, it’s just not reflected in their survey.
I like to be an optimist, and think that flexible working is embedded in the NHS; that in it’s natural form it’s a working arrangement that arises out of an informal chat between a member of staff and their manager. But the realist in me is asking: is it really that simple?