turnover: £15,640 million
initiatives in work-life balance portfolio
working - including Alternative Attendance Patterns
playscheme run by employees and their partners, funded by BT
26% female 74% male
of management female and proportion is rising rapidly
staff work part-time
gaps in some sectors e.g. software engineering
recognises that policies and strategies must enable ALL our people to optimise
their input into the success of the business. Frequently the prevailing work ethos
is largely geared towards attending a place of work for relatively fixed, sometimes
long hours, often involving significant elements of travelling. These ingredients
can lead to increased stress and decreased motivation for employees struggling
to balance their personal commitments with their professional ones. Given the
considerable investment in terms of money, training and experience it makes business
sense to do everything possible to retain people and empower them to find an acceptable
- Freedom to work
BT we recognise that, if we are to attract, retain and motivate top quality employees,
we need to respond innovatively and pro-actively to the pressures that they are
dealing with in achieving a balance between work and personal life.
operates in a fast moving and aggressive market led by technological change of
unprecedented speed and impact. We need flexibility, adaptability, new skills
for new technologies and constant improvement from our people. In return we recognise
that we must create a flexible environment that gives our people the freedom and
responsibility to do their work well and that recognises the importance of life
outside of work.
to work is an important step towards this goal.
to Work - The Project
January 1998 BT initiated a project to develop innovative solutions to help it's
people achieve a greater balance between their professional and personal lives,
it was entitled "Freedom to Work". The project incorporated a trial which offered
individuals the ability to design the attendance patterns which would help them
to rebalance their personal and professional lives.
objectives of the trial were:
gain, from the direct experiences of people, a clear understanding of the benefits
and risk around the adoption of Freedom to Work.
create a framework of flexible working options that could be used as a successful
model across BT.
produce guidelines for local agreements between individuals and line managers.
determine the feasibility of, and produce recommendations for, the way forward
people, approximately half of whom were women took part in the trial at BT's Cardiff
IT Unit. The trial ran from July 1998 to March 1999. The working patterns selected
included working full time hours over four days, working a combination of long
and short days, periodic home working and working longer hours over a defined
period, in order to accrue blocks of non-working time, which could be taken eg
during school holidays. However all of these attendance patterns still fell within
existing contracts of employment.
underpin and support the trial, four voluntary guidelines were produced to encourage
culture change. The guidelines cover:
Home Working (the tools you need and practical advice)
on Long Term Absence
Working (To encourage supportive management of part-time workers)
Caring Facilities (Facilities available in the Cardiff area with BT contact names)
of the Freedom to Work Trial
establish how the trial was progressing against the stated success criteria a
questionnaire was developed. Participants and their line managers were required
to complete the questionnaire at the beginning of their trial. The purpose being
to establish a quantifiable baseline of their attitudes and feelings to certain
aspects of their working life. Subsequent questionnaires were sent at the mid
point and the end of the trial. Additionally, each participant was required to
nominate some colleagues to take part in this monitoring process. Nominated colleagues
were also required to complete these questionnaires. The purpose of including
the line managers and colleagues was to establish whether the participants' new
attendance patterns had any effect on those who worked with them.
addition, qualitative feedback has been collected throughout the trial. This information
has been gathered both informally, and by two specific face to face checkpoint
events in November 1998 and March 1999.
key points captured from these checkpoint meetings are as follows:
of participants and their line managers felt increased loyalty to BT as a result
of Freedom to Work.
person turned down a better paid job offer as a result of the flexibility offered
by participating in the trial.
performance increased overall due to better succession planning/cover
want to transfer into the area offering Freedom to Work. It has thus become a
differentiator affecting where people would like to work.
on the part of participants, managers and colleagues is key.
benefits are realised for teams working with customers/colleagues across time
zones, eg India or USA.
coverage can be achieved for teams providing user/technical support.
communication between manager and participant is essential
are empowered to take control of their lives.
BT policy already supports a range of flexible working patterns, research has
shown that there is often a reluctance on the part of individuals to take them
up, or even make a request to do so. The dominant culture is still one of 'presenteeism'
with rewards often going to those who are seen to put in the longest hours. There
may also be a reluctance on the part of line managers to grant requests given
they do not have confidence in effectively managing a team with diverse working
patterns. Initiatives such as Freedom to Work are making a tangible contribution
to raising awareness, creating a 'can do' climate and changing this culture.
participants agreed that they are more motivated as a result of taking part in
Freedom to Work because they feel that it has helped them to achieve a better
quality of life, both at work and at home.
project is receiving widespread publicity throughout BT and has the full support
of our Equal Opportunities Steering Group and Unions. The success of the trial
has encouraged other Groups to explore how they may also seize the benefits created
by Freedom to Work. BT believes this will enable greater opportunity for increased
productivity and balance.