The Scalpel's Blog

31.01.19

Working nine to five – the only way to making a living?

Kirstie Stott, director of the Inspiring Leaders Network, returns to write for NHE to discuss the benefits of flexible working, and why it should be used more across the NHS.

"For the seventh time can you brush your teeth!" 

Mornings are usually hectic in my house: trying to get two boys ready for school, do the school run, pack lunch boxes, changing shirts as they've spilt milk down the one you ironed last night… Being a working parent can be a huge challenge – if only it was getting the kids getting ready which was the challenging part.

A recent survey by Travelodge found that six in 10 unemployed parents find it difficult to find a job to fit around the school run. The survey conducted with YouGov of 451 unemployed parents found that although 86% of respondents wanted to return to work, 59% stated that the scarcity of jobs with flexibility around the school run was their biggest challenge.

This isn’t surprising given that we still seem to be stuck to the traditional and somewhat outdated working pattern of ‘nine to five’ which, if you didn’t know, pre-dates Dolly Parton, and has its origins in the industrial revolution when Robert Owen coined the slogan “eight hours’ labour, eight hours’ recreation, eight hours’ rest” in a bid to move away from child labour and 16-hour days. Henry Ford was among the first to introduce the eight-hour day into his company back in 1914 some 105 years ago!

However, I’d like to think that we have moved on since then, and that many organisations are beginning to see the benefits of a flexible workforce.

The education secretary Damion Hinds has recently announced a new recruitment and retention strategy within education that will enable and facilitate what he describes as “outdated attitudes among school leaders, especially men, may be holding back the adoption of practices such as flexible working.”

We know that flexibility at work is not gender specific – the benefits would be felt and seen across society, especially as we begin to enter a post-Brexit Britain where there will be an even bigger need for effective and more joined-up approach to workforce planning in healthcare.

However, it was somewhat disappointing to see that the workforce plan was an addendum to the NHS 10-Year Plan and something that will come later. We saw how healthcare professionals, especially in the HR field, felt this was a mistake. I would agree – people are what will drive the changes and ambitions and, as with service users, they should be front and centre of any planning.

We need to have a serious conversation about how we move forward with an innovative approach to working practices. I’d like to see the health secretary Matt Hancock prioritise workforce exclusion and innovate the workforce. By doing this we will see, as Travelodge no doubt will, a more diverse set of skills and expertise – something which the healthcare sector would hugely benefit from.  

Until this becomes a national priority, I believe that organisations and systems can begin to do the following things to begin to transform the way their people work:

  • Understand what people want, how often have you asked and really listened?
  • Those leading the systems workforce agenda: be brave, you have the opportunity to transform and revolutionise the way things are done;
  • Look more broadly at flexible working to see it’s more than just part-time working. Consider Diverse Multiform Working to take a more holistic view of workforce planning across systems and organisations;
  • Think flexible first and take a fresh look at any recruitment. Ask: do we need the same? How could this be different?

Its 2019. Working nine to five – is it the only way to make a living?!

 

The Inspiring Leaders Network is currently working with HEE to understand more about flexible working in the NHS. We currently have a live survey and it would be great to get your views. Click here to take the survey.  

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