Tom Etherington has taken a different approach to achieving a flexible workplace to many I have interviewed as part of this series. And its success proves that flexible work should never be a one size fits all model.
Tom is Managing Director at Evolved, a performance marketing agency. Like a lot of agencies, in-person collaboration is crucial, so he didn't want to leave it to chance.
He made the decision, with the full understanding and backing of his team, to mandate fixed days as part of an office-first model. Employees must be in the office at least 50% of the time. The specific days are agreed on a team-by-team basis to ensure there are reasons to be in the office.
"Once we realised that our entire culture, operation, and growth plan needed to reflect the hybrid model we wanted, it was only ever going to be office-first for us."
"It was a really hard decision because we knew it would result in some very talented team members leaving the business who didn't live close enough to the office."
However, Tom knew that flexibility was still crucial; they just needed to find a way to make it all work, with their focus being on a four-day work week and core hours.
Four-Day Work Week
All of Tom's employees have worked four days a week for the last two years, some take Fridays off, and some take Mondays off, so that the business still operates five days a week.
"The difference in the quality of life for myself and all of our employees has been mindblowing, and productivity has actually increased."
One of the criticisms of mandated office days is the lack of flexibility it offers, particularly for working parents. Tom created core working hours where everyone must be online or available between 10am and 12pm and between 2pm and 4pm. Outside of those hours, it's up to you when you work.
So, if someone wanted to do the school run or go to the gym in the morning and then start work later in the day, that's perfectly ok.
The model that Tom and his team have created is a lesson for everyone. Flexibility can mean different things for different businesses. As long as you are focused on creating a culture that works for both your team and your business, the results will follow.