Anette is from Denmark and works in the Frimley office, being based in the UK 20+ years.
A couple of times a year, Anette travels back to her home country for periods of time, combining work and holiday “ within the required tax regulations stipulated for much an arrangement”.
“This really is such a great chance for me to spend some more quality time with my family and friends in Denmark, especially some much needed catch up with my elderly parents.
Being able to do this also has a very positive impact on my mental health.
“As part of my job, in the capacity as a NWE Commercial and Finance Manager for Legal, Compliance, SFS and Treasury, I support the Nordic region so this is also an excellent opportunity to be located nearer to multiple countries and Siemens sites.
“I have set up a Yammer group which enables the team to follow me on my flexible working journeys in Denmark where I post work/social updates with relevant photos.
“This really is a great way for Siemens to show how they provide flexible working and from their perspective they receive the same commitment and high-quality work deliverables from me as they always have and with no work disruptions.
“I feel lucky to be able to do this, and this is definitely seen as a positive for both Siemens and myself.”
Anette’s manager, Matt Dodd, has a positive outlook on Anette’s flexibility arrangement, “It is great that Siemens encourages and supports these opportunities. Anette supports stakeholders in eight different countries so the role already requires a lot of communication via Circuit, Teams etc. Anette has a great home office to work from in Denmark, we still communicate regularly and she continues to perform to her usual high standard, so everything works great!”
Siemens Strategic Infrastructure Digital Grid, Nottingham and Monkton
In February 2019, colleagues from the SI DG business experimented with Employee Led Flexibility (ELF). Having been nominated by their business lead, there was enthusiasm to continue their cultural transformation programme by specifically focussing on flexibility led by employees.
Xander Leijnse, Head of Quality and Business Excellence, SI DG says:
“We started a journey of cultural transformation about 5 years ago.
We had a simple concept – in a service business, customers are looking for value from their providers on both contract level as well as the service events level (of which we manage 10s of thousands each month). You cannot deliver that by central control and command management as there is literally no way to control the huge amount of activity that relate to these service events. Therefore you have to rely on your workforce, and therefore you need to develop that in to a capable, committed, empowered and engaged workforce.
ELF was just a natural progression in that journey whereby we recognised that telling people when and where to work actually is part of command and control and not part of building the capable, committed empowered and engaged workforce we set out to achieve. “
Around 10% of the workforce took part in the experiment and the employees all had individual conversations with their manager to find a new way of working. Some decided to try more structured home-working, others adjusted shift patterns, others took unpaid leave on an adhoc basis.
The feedback was extremely positive from employees
“ELF has had a positive impact on my work and personal life.”
“It feels like the trust is there more to get the job done whilst still being able to fit in a balanced life outside of work as a result of it.”
“It means everyone can have the same level of flexibility and you don't have to rely on your manager”
The positive feedback wasn’t just received from employees; their managers also began to see the benefits:
“When I first heard about the ELF programme I had my reservations as I’d got visions of Employee Led Chaos…. But my experience has been completely different…… Not only do we get happier employees, but we also get more productive employees”.Jeff Heathcote, Head of IT, SI DG
When COVID-19 hit, along with much of Siemens, the team in Nottingham were forced to put ELF in place for everyone who could work from home. They call it ELF on steroids. The business was even more dependant on people taking ownership rather than being told what to do. The team needed to continue to provide value to their customers, but also to look after each other, and address the needs of the company in these challenging times. In 2020, key customers have made the effort to express their sincere gratitude for the support we have given them during COVID, which in parts of the industry we work in has had a major impact. ELF has been one of the enablers to ensure our business could continue to deliver and has ended up benefitting our employees, our business and our customers.
For over a year now, Vickie and her team in SFS have embraced flexible working in many forms. Members of this team work varying hours, in the office or from home, all supporting each other to be able to achieve a work life balance. The unusual thing with Vickie’s team is that they are customer facing, where they are required to use telephone software and equipment to make contact with customers. When Vickie and her team raised the question of flexible working there were some barriers, including making sure the team could coordinate their flexibility to maintain the standard customer service hours and also around the ability to use the telephone software and equipment remotely.
With a goal of becoming more dynamic, the team came together to figure out how flexibility would work for them. After considering different methods, Vickie and her team simply tried out different ideas to see what could work. Now fully implemented and working, the flexible team are more engaged and committed, and there is a feeling of increased appreciation between team members simply due to the level of support they provide for each other. The team are really happy to work for a company that cares about their employees’ wellbeing and haven’t looked back since.
After William got married, he and his wife decided to take a unpaid leave from work for 11 weeks to travel around Asia. At the time he was running a team of 25 people in one of our operational teams in one of the larger segments of the managed services business.
William’s manager was very keen to support him as he wants to keep good people. I came up with a solution that there was someone in my wider team that was capable of stepping up in a secondment type capacity. They have been champing at the bit for development. This was planned a long time in advance.
“I was part of the creation of the conditions and enablement to allow the junior person to step up. It’s about making sure the team still works. There is an onus on the employee to work with the manager to put something in place in your absence. Employees need to take a bit of ownership of what they’re leaving behind and I wouldn’t allow it to limp along and be a disorganised when I came back as it’d be even harder so it was in my interest to leave things in a good state.
"The whole experience has increased my loyalty towards Siemens. I feel very privileged to have been allowed to do this. The company has got more loyalty from me and I will continue to work hard. It’s also had the positive effects of cross-training and developing people. People have stepped up to undertake the next level of project management in my absence. They were rewarded for that and also rewarded on their development journeys."
We had to quickly adapt to home working, ensuring we were still able to meet customer needs & support them through this difficult period. My initial days in March when the first lockdown was introduced was chaotic to say the least. Jumping from one teams meeting to the next ensuring all teams were operational and working effectively from home. As a single mum home schooling brought a new set of challenges to add to the mix, not to mention having to look after elderly parents.
Many mums in the team were facing their own challenges. One of my team members had just returned from maternity leave 2 weeks prior to lockdown. With no schools open and nurseries closed she had no child-care and so we had to furlough some team members as they were struggling to work from home with very young children to care for. Juggling work and home schooling was a common problem that most team members were struggling to manage; we had to work closely as a team by being creative and flexible with different team members according to their needs. We had some working mums who would log on earlier than usual, work a few hours then take a few hours off during the day to manage home schooling and would then log on again in the evenings. Even working mums with older children had to adjust to a new way of working with older kids being at home learning online.
It's fair to say we could never have imagined we would be where we are today without COVID. All my teams are operational, working flexibly according to their needs & we are still there for all our customers as many of them have also had to adapt and change to a new way of working. Trusting team members and giving them the autonomy to manage their workload in a flexible way has made us more productive in many ways, as those team members logging on later won’t be receiving as many customers calls late in the evening and so are able to clear workload without interruptions, providing their colleagues with more flexibility when they log on in the morning and are taking calls from customers.
Nine months on the new way of working has become the new norm, whilst we enjoy being back in the office 1-2 days a week to catch up with one another, many working mums recognise the value of working flexibly and the positive impact it’s having on their family life. As a working mum who has worked full time hours since my children were born, I am experiencing the benefits of working from home and the positive impact it’s having on my children (14 and 18) as well as for my own wellbeing.
Amelia joined Siemens three years ago after taking a three-year career break before her youngest daughter started school.
Siemens really saw the potential in Amelia and was delighted that she was returning to a professional role. Amelia didn’t come through the Siemens official returners programme but she was supported with training so that she could quickly up-skill and make an impact in her role.
Amelia says: “My working pattern is totally flexible, and I rarely start and finish at the same time. I have never missed out on attending school events and if I need to, I will swap my part time working days at short notice. It’s all about getting the job done. I am hugely trusted and supported by my team and this makes me feel totally energised and committed.”
Since Covid has forced us all to review the way we work, Amelia has felt the benefits of being able to adjust to suit the current circumstances. When the children were in school, she was able to break to pick up her daughters every day, whilst the Grandparents, who used to do the school run, were being careful and staying away. She also adjusted again when the schools were closed.
“Yes, Covid has been tough with having to work and home school two primary school aged children and there have been many emotional moments. However, our flexibility culture meant that I could have open and honest conversations with my colleagues, for example proposing different times for meetings if they didn’t suit me and of course having a rant if the home schooling was failing that day. “
“Who knows what things will be like in the coming months and years, but I know that our flexibility culture means I will always find ways to get that work-life balance and feel like a good (ish) Mum.”
The discussions around flexibility within Electrium had been progressing since around June 2019, and the concept of Employee Led Flexibility had been promoted to staff from local Human Resources at all Electrium sites from that point.
However, as Dayna Rafferty, Wireperson and Unite Union Representative noted, there had been interest from the shop floor staff members to move to a 4-day week for some time, but the Company had not been able to agree to it then.
Dayna recalls that the benefits that employees wanted to achieve through this request were to create a 3-day weekend for better work life balance, and to increase the possibilities of childcare provision. However, additionally increasing the length of the 4 remaining working days would reduce commuting time as start times would be outside of the Manchester rush hour. Both benefits would also mean less money spent on petrol.
In February 2020, the world started to change as the COVID-19 virus gained traction in the UK and ultimately led to the first UK-wide lockdown.
This unprecedented change led to a different focus on the employees’ desire to work a compressed week. Steve Tiplady, Head of Operations for Commercial Circuit Protection, notes that “at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the management and employees were looking to try and restrict the amount of days employees needed to spend in work so they could remain at home for the maximum amount of days in accordance with the published government guidelines at the time. Additionally, the closure of schools due to the pandemic had left a number of employees with childcare issues; a 4-day working week would go some way towards helping them with this issue”.
However, developments in the sites strategic aims also meant there were additional benefits for the company by agreeing to the employees flexible working proposals. Sean Carroll, Head of Commercial Circuit protection, explains “we’d had a longstanding aspiration to challenge the traditional working week across the site. We had 3 initial aims; to improve our real time availability to customers by being open for longer through having people available on Friday afternoon, which we didn’t have previously. We also aim to reduce the usage of high energy consuming items of plant. We’ve got a NetZ(ero) ambition for the site. We’ve also got a powder coat plant that consumes a lot of energy particularly when firing it up to operating temperature. Being able to manage the demand across 4 extended days rather than 5 gave us an immediate saving and reduction in carbon consumption. The final aim was to provide team members with the opportunity to achieve a better work life balance, recognising this is the right thing to do for our employees, but also that happier employees are more productive employees.
Everyone recognised however that it would not be enough to simply move everyone to a 4-day working week. Sean recalls, “implementation didn’t come without its challenges. We soon realised a one size fits all approach couldn’t work as everyone had different commitments outside of work that we wanted to be able to respect. We also needed to keep sight of the business need. As a minimum, we had to maintain a level of commitment to our customers and wanted to try and improve it.”
To determine the optimal outcome for the proposal, Dayna was pleased that “meetings with the employee representatives were conducted, involving Health and Safety for Covid guidance, and site management”. However, as Steve notes, it was important that it was “recognised that individual circumstances may differ and the need for individual flexibility would be apparent. So, all departments were canvassed asking them to determine optimum and desirable shift patterns for both their department, and the individuals within them. Department heads were advised that they should try to accommodate individuals’ requests, provided the safe and effective operation of the departments were not compromised.”
Dayna was really pleased with the speed of implementation, but also that the implementation had brought several benefits to her members, stating they were “really happy with the new arrangement and had seen a real improvement in work life balance and a reduction in commuting time and cost. Importantly the process had also improved the employees’ perception of the Company’s openness to new ideas and flexibility.” These benefits were equally recognised by Steve and Sean, with Steve remarking that “employees and their representatives now feel even more able to approach management with concerns or ideas, and are even more confident they will be appropriately listened to and considered.” From a practical perspective the move to a 4-day week has meant that options for overtime are greater, giving people more opportunity to work overtime and still plan a weekend activity with their family. It is also recognised that the world of work is changing, and that increased flexibility “change is taking away the traditional inputs of management and we’re learning to measure the outputs”, as mentioned by Sean. It is also making the company more attractive when recruiting talent and is further encouraging the company’s high-performance mentality.
The final word must come from Dayna who simply said that “the employees were happier, benefitting from this flexibility and the company was benefitting from the happier employees.”