Last week I attended an interesting talk on flexible working in Manchester City centre. It was hosted at Spaces on St Peter’s Square and included an impressive roster of speakers from different industries. The Manchester Evening News contributors kept it lively and there was some engaging chat with the audience. On leaving the venue I was surprised that my defining memory of the morning was a talk from a rather traditional employer who you wouldn’t expect to be blazing a trail for agile working.
William Lees Jones is the managing director of JW Lees and tellingly charts a career in advertising on his CV prior to joining the family company. The brewer’s head office is in Middleton, North Manchester and employs around 150 people. Staff have to work on Mondays to analyse the weekend sales. During the remainder of the week they are actively encouraged to work flexible hours. This assists parents in taking children to childcare and schools in the morning and then picking them up. The employees tmanage their workday ensuring that they are available for conference calls and virtual meet ups. My understanding is that the core hours of 10am to 3pm are respected however, staff members can connect remotely at home or in a local workspace. The office is locked at 1830 each evening as Lees Jones cites a “duty of care” to his team in drawing a line on the work day.
There is one externality that is of significant benefit to other Mancunians and that is fewer people on the roads during rush hour. By adopting this approach Lee Jones is liberating his workforce and cutting congestion for others. If other employers could utilise this strategy then think how much easier it will be for others to move around the conurbation? The reduction in pollution from car fumes is another significant benefit to our blossoming City as it grows. I’m sure his HR team in Middleton will be particularly thankful for his efforts, reportedly it has helped in retaining talent in the Northern Office.