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Starting 2021 SMART and agile: The myths of Flexible working

  • Julie Phillips
  • 13th January 2021

New for 2021, Julie Phillips, Chief Operating Officer gives her insights about setting SMART goals and guidelines for successful flexible working.

Flexible working is a wonderful idea, but employers can be slow to embrace the change as business owners worry it could damage productivity.  It’s not a view we share as it’s one of the founding principles of our company.  Our experience has been that it can be very beneficial and boosts productivity.

When I joined CHS Group back in July 2014 I thought it was an amazing and novel opportunity to work for a business which allows me to work from home full time with flexible working hours.  I will be honest with you - I thought the structure would work whilst we were a small team of four but couldn’t possibly work and meet the business needs as the team grew- I was so wrong!

I was intrigued to learn from our CEO and Founder, Emma Cartmell back in 2009 that she started the company with a very clear vision.  Emma felt as a business owner she gained certain flexibility around her working day but why should only the business owners and directors of a company benefit why not every single employee.  Thus our culture was born!

Six years on I am happy to report we have grown our team.  We have staff located across the UK and all these staff work from home and work within a culture that offers them flexibility around their role, daily.

As the team grew, we didn’t want to compromise on the culture of CHS Group, which meant we had to put hard work into building an organisation that offers our employees both the benefits of flexible working, but also means our business thrives year on year.  

We knew we needed to focus on three main areas to make sure our culture was aligned and met our business strategies and objectives but still offered flexible working for all staff:

We agreed the basis of our core values (reliable, integrity, positive energy, dedicated and passionate about what we do) and use them as our guiding principles which define the behaviour, we expect from each other and how we work together.  

Our core values are not just a graphic to stick to the wall, but to be lived and breathed daily.  The team embrace these values and are measured against them as part of our KPIs.

We took time to get the right technology for our business.  Asana is a great project management tool and cuts down the enormous email chains, whilst giving the whole team visibility. 

Where would we be without G Suite where we handle the bulk of our operations and event planning.  We host our weekly conferencing through Zoom. Infact, fast-forward to 2021, we all live on Zoom and Microsoft Teams to communicate during lockdown!  Even though we’re all over the country (and some outside of the UK), a fast and reliable meetings tool helps us to stay connected.  Finally, HubSpot has been an amazing tool for us to manage our sales and marketing operations from our CRM and managing the sales function to sending promotional emails to our blog posts - HubSpot does it all and we are so grateful for it.

Flexible working often means remote working too, but this should in no way be isolating.  Our technology gives us the right tools and processes to work collaboratively.  These tools help us to stay productive, visible and operate as a tight-knit team. It kept us ahead of the curve in 2020 that's for sure.

Communication and a meeting rhythm are sacrosanct in the diary.  We have set meetings for the full team every week which allows us to touch base as a business.  We make sure our meetings have a consistent agenda with the aim to make sure everything is on track, that we’re connected as a team and we solve any issues.  We also have regular team meetings where we get together and connect face to face with a clear agenda and outcome.

Flexible working has provided great payback for us as a team resulting in increased staff morale and engagement, fierce loyalty to the company, reduced absenteeism and a reduction in staff turnover.  Trust plays a very important role and you have to respect your team to control their daily schedule and work environment.  

For us as a small, tight-knit and engaged group, with shared goals, core values and collaborative communication it has led to increased productivity, less stress and benefits to health and wellbeing and our team have the flexibility to meet both family, personal and work needs.

I recently spoke to a number of my family and friends and came to the conclusion that in today’s corporate world, flexible working is still not the status quo and is still difficult for employees to approach management to discuss and this made me ask the question 'why?!'  Obviously, my ‘friend and family study’ doesn’t speak for everyone and I can understand how some businesses are weary of it.  

I am the first person to admit that it’s not all a bed of roses; it needs to have a clear and widely understood goal otherwise it will merely be a policy which sounds good on paper.  It requires dedication and resource to implement and also needs to live and breathe throughout your organisation.

All I do know that everyone working here at CHS Group is fully invested and proud in the culture we have built and that is a way of life for us all but with that we know we have to work hard every day as the fundamental principle of flexible working is that the needs of the business must be met.  It’s a classic ‘all for one and one for all’ policy!


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