Updated: Jul 5
"Look at us! Our new website says we offer flexibility!"
"Here's the headline that says our staff can work anytime and anywhere!"
"Our employee handbook says we actively encourage parents returning to work and offer them the freedom and flexibility to put their families first!"
Unfortunately, we hear this quite a bit. Which might sound odd coming from me. Why would companies talking about flexibility and a family-first approach be unfortunate? Indeed, hearing these sorts of comments should have me grinning from ear to ear and giving thanks to the powers that be. Well, sadly, they don't. And here's why.
Headlines, websites and handbooks don't mean a thing. They portray the best version of the company, often a version the company aspires to be, but the truth is usually very different.
My current favourite, the "Here's the headline that says our staff can work anytime and anywhere!", is from a well-known accounting firm with offices worldwide.
They do offer a work anytime, anywhere policy but for less than 10% of their staff. Oh,
and it is for staff who are providing support services for other countries around the world.
So instead of saying, "you'll be living in the UK but working US hours", they rave about their fantastic work anytime-anywhere policy. All the while gaining significant PR miles whilst not doing very much.
Or the new "work for us" section on a supermarket website promoting flexible jobs, but when I met a senior manager just a few months ago, they "couldn't wait to get everyone back in the office full-time!" Again, as it turns out, the new flexible working policies are only for a small proportion of the workforce. A marketing triumph but mostly an HR flop.
How do you know what's true and what is a load of PR? It's hard to work out sometimes! Occasionally even we get sucked in. But here are some simple steps you can take to minimise the risk of being duped.
Ask around. Does anyone you know, know anyone who has worked there?
Be a little careful. Someone who left the company more than 18 months ago is probably already out of touch; remember that they left for a reason, so they might have a negative opinion of the organisation.
Focus on the facts:
Did they let that person, or any of their colleagues, work flexibly?
Did they enable remote working?
How did senior management feel about people working reduced hours/flexibly?
Websites like Glass Door and LinkedIn are helpful for finding out useful info.
You can quickly see reviews on what a place is like to work at on Glass Door (ignore the 5-star and 1-star reviews), and LinkedIn can show you how long people have worked there.
Look at the length of service and the demographics of the people that work at the company. If the average tenure is less than 12 months and the team's average age is 25, then they might not be set up to support a Returning parent, for example.
On the other hand, if the average tenure is 3 years+ and you spot several people around your age, then maybe, just maybe, their website paints an accurate picture.
At the interview, ask questions like:
"What flexible work policies do you have?"
"How do you support remote working?" or even
"How many people in the team work flexibly?"
You could even ask to speak to a team member who works flexibly to get their take on whether the company does everything they claim to. Can you really work from anywhere?
Ultimately speaking, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Do everything you can to minimise the risk but then jump in with both feet and do what you can to make a success of the opportunity.
As always, we are here to help and support so please drop us a line if you have any questions about Returning to Work or finding the right company for you.