Flexi-working at our Trust

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Jenni Carr-Smith knew before she applied for the role as HR Business Partner at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust that working flexibly was important to her so she called the recruiting manager in advance to ask if this could be an option.

She said: “I had such a positive conversation when I called up to discuss the role before putting my application in. It was made clear to me that this was a busy, full time role but, for the right candidate, there was a willingness to make it work flexibly providing the requirements of the role were met.”

Jenni was offered the job and has been able to successfully balance a busy home life with a busy working life by working four days each week with Thursdays as her non-working day. It is this, combined with the opportunity to work three of her days from home and one in the office each week, as well as the ability to flex her hours outside of the standard ‘9 to 5’, that have played a big part in her championing flexible working for others in her team too.

The desire to ensure she was ‘there for all the big and little things’ in family life was particularly strong for Jenni after losing her dad, who passed away in 2019. Having also lost her mum several years before, it made her think very differently about her work life balance and reassess her priorities.

“Before I had my children I used to work all hours, but losing both of my parents and having children of my own made me realise it is important to make the most of your life – including looking after my own health too.” The flexibility within her role allows Jenni to drop off and pick up her children from nursery and school, spend valuable time with her two year old daughter on her non-working day, and enjoy family dinners with her husband and children – compared to previous roles when she would often return home late, often only making it home to say goodnight.

She has no doubt that the flexible arrangement benefits the Trust as much as it benefits her and her family.

“I feel very supported and importantly trusted to do my job – the flexibility has made a massive difference to my mental and physical health and wellbeing, and on the days that I am at work I feel refreshed, work hard and I am sure I am more efficient as a result. Flexibility works both ways too. If I need to rearrange something – for example, for emergency childcare – then I am happy to give that time back to the Trust at another time as and when needed.”

Dr Heidi Napier (Leading Consultant Clinical Psychologist) with her daughter Alex

Dr Heidi Napier joined the Trust as Lead Consultant Clinical Psychologist in September 2021. After just four months in the role, her husband Ian passed away – leaving Heidi needing to explore alternative working arrangements that would enable her to provide vital emotional and practical support for their teenage daughter Alex as well as continue in her role.

In discussion with her manager, it was agreed that Heidi could move to a more flexible working arrangement. Her previous three days a week became four flexible working days a week during term time, enabling Heidi to provide more stability at home and minimise the changes as much as possible for her daughter at a difficult time.

Heidi said: “The compassion, understanding and willingness to be so receptive towards flexible working that I have experienced has been excellent. I spent a lot of time feeling awkward about wanting such peculiar arrangements, especially having only been in post for such a short time, but all of that was internal and I have had nothing but support from the Trust and my manager. I think it is key for employees to be honest and open about what you want to achieve and also have the courage to be vulnerable. The result is that I have been able to minimise the changes for my daughter who suddenly had a huge gap in her life. It’s been invaluable to be able to provide that stability and give her the chance to adjust and heal.”

Heidi said the key to making her new arrangements work for her are ensuring she has a formalised process around her working hours and annual leave, and being incredibly organised with her workload – even though she knows that there is complete trust in her to carry out her role.

She added: “I think a lot of people assume you can only ask for flexible working arrangements to cater for childcare commitments but it can be, as in my case, a rapid response to a change of circumstances or for another reason entirely. It’s been great for me and has given me a much needed, sustainable work/life balance for the benefit of not just me but my daughter too.” 

Richard Luckman Assistant Director for People and Culture

Richard’s working pattern means he is working at home 40 per cent of the week and 60 per cent on site.
“This has worked out really well for me. I recognise that not everyone has the opportunity to work in this way but for me this has helped my mental health, motivation and commitment to my work, my team and the Trust.”

When Richard started his job, he was meeting a lot of people virtually, and he felt it wasn’t as easy to build relationships with colleagues. He said: “In person you have more of a rapport. To make things work better for me, I had regular individual catch-ups with colleagues via Teams to discuss work-related matters and used that as an opportunity to build relationships. Although homeworking has been generally well-received by staff who use Microsoft Teams as a communication tool, there are pros and cons.

“When you’re working from home, it is more convenient, your work-life balance can be better – but then there’s the disadvantage of not having human interaction and becoming a bit robotic and having Teams meetings overload.”

He added that for some, working from home is great, but for others like him, he could find it quite detrimental for his mental health.
“Everybody’s situation is different,” he said. “For me, looking at the individual needs of employees is a key driver to working out how best to adopt flexible working for individuals and teams. I would encourage colleagues to request a wellbeing conversation and discuss flexible working as part of that.”