The 8-hour day was introduced during the 19th Century Industrial Revolution — technological advances meant factory machines could operate 24-hours per day, but progressive bosses believed that the optimal shift duration for the workers who monitored them was one third of that.
The concept transferred to other industries and over time, the 9-5 Monday-Friday working week became the default setting for doing business.
It’s still common to this day, but in terms of serving staff and operational purposes, is severely outdated.
However, some farsighted companies have been thinking outside the box for years — here are five firms that champion flexible working.
1. Perpetual Guardian
New Zealand personal finance firm Perpetual Guardian is over 135 years old.
But when it comes to flexible working, it’s streets ahead of younger competitors — in tandem with local academics, it participated in a 4 day week trial in 2018 and has since adopted the practice permanently.
Staff reduce their working week by the equivalent of one day’s hours by taking a full day off or implementing late starts or early finishes. There’s no reduction in wages, productivity has remained the same or better and staff engagement is much improved.
Richard Branson’s behemoth Virgin group has blazed trails in several sectors and it’s no slouch when it comes to flexible working too.
In 2014, he confirmed that his personal staff are free to take as many holidays as they want — provided their performance and output remain the same and customers don’t suffer from diminished service.
So if you’ve just earned an MBA, bagging a Virgin job might bring a brilliant balance between life and work.
Consumer goods giant Unilever is headquartered in London but has 169,000 staff worldwide.
Despite its size, the organisation personalises work and is committed to flexible conditions — it’s won plaudits for its fairness in the workplace programme which features health promotion and protection, agile working with provisions for home work and altered hours, and healthy office spaces.
4. Goldman Sachs
Until recently, mega-bank Goldman Sachs had a reputation for paying high-performing staff well but expecting long hours and solid discipline in return.
This working philosophy possibly remains in place, but in recent years, the firm has evidenced its progressive side by providing on-site childcare at its offices in locations like London’s Square Mile and India’s Bengaluru.
So no matter their personal circumstances, staff with children can enjoy peace of mind while they work.
5. Ormiston Wire
SMEs sometimes claim that budgets don’t permit them to offer the same level of perks and flexibility as larger competitors.
But niche metal specialist Ormiston Wire has been proving such naysayers wrong since it implemented a 4.5 day working week more than 30 years ago.
At the time, managers noticed that after staff received their wages before lunch on Fridays, they tended to celebrate with beers in the local pub and returned to work unable to operate safely or effectively. The early finish continues to this day, with associated improvements in motivation and productivity maintained.
That’s our list! Share your own thoughts on flexible working in the comments section.