Six ways to drive f******* working in adland

Six ways to drive f******* working in adland

The advertising industry needs to stop seeing flexible working as a dirty word and recognise it is good for business, says Nikki Cochrane, co-founder and co-chief executive, Digital Mums.

We need to clean up the F-Word. Flexible. There, I’ve said it.  7 in 10 employees want to ask for flexible working, yet only 12% have dared ask for it. So why the self-censorship? According to our research, because UK employees think dropping the F-bomb would be viewed negatively by their bosses and have an adverse impact on their careers.

Flexible working is too often seen as a dirty word by businesses and even colleagues, who see it as the reserve of a ‘lucky’ few. But we know first hand that flexible working is as good for businesses as it is for employees.   At Digital Mums we not only empower mums to find work that works around their families by training them in digital and social media skills, we also operate a 100% flexible working policy. Only 14% of our team are full-time and office based; 86% work part-time and remotely; 17% never step foot in the office. And we’ve grown 600% in the last three years thanks to them. 

Flexible working makes people more productive (up to 80% according to studies)

So that’s why we’ve teamed up with the brilliant Iris Worldwide to scream the F-word from the roof tops - well billboards, shopping malls and post offices, thanks to our friends at Naber, 8 Outdoor and Clear Channel. The aim of our ‘#cleanuptheFword’ ad campaign is to drive social awareness amongst both employees and employers about the benefits of flexible work – and encourage people to pledge their support by petitioning the Government to change how ‘flexible working’ is officially defined.

If you’re wondering what those benefits are, flexible working makes people more productive (up to 80% according to studies). It helps to attract the best talent – and keep them.  It can cut staffing costs and overheads. And it can even win over the increasing number of clients who now want to know more about agencies’ diversity agendas. It’s also the future; a flexible, agile working culture is top of candidates’ wish lists when looking for new employers.   Millennials meanwhile cite working remotely, and with greater connectivity, as top of their priority list for jobs.

From our experience speaking to various businesses about adopting flexible working practices, it’s not always that they don’t want to offer flexible working, but that they don’t know where to start.  That’s why we’re launching our new Diversity Bootcamp pilot this autumn.  Drawing on our own experiences of a flexible workforce we want to help other businesses adopt a digitally empowered, agile working model. Delivered over four weeks via a series of workshops, the Bootcamp introduces agencies to new technology and uses rapid ideation sessions to create quick flexible working wins to apply immediately within the business.

And we’re starting with the ad industry.  We worked with M&C Saatchi on an early pilot of the training and they’re now looking at using technology and work spaces to create more efficient ways of working.

To give you a taste of how you can do the same, here’s some top tips to help create a better f******* work culture:

1/ Easy does it: Don’t be put off by thinking you need to go fully flexible overnight.  Ease in with a trial period of 3-6 months or a ‘Flex Friday’ policy to help make it less of a leap. The proof will always be in the output, so it’s a win:win.

2/ Don’t worry, be ‘app-y’: A bad pun, but a number one worry for agencies we’ve spoken to is; ‘if my staff work flexibly, how will I know they are working?’ Tackle this head on by training staff up in digital tools like Slack and Trello so you can stay in touch remotely and share to-do lists.  

3/ Upskill your managers: Key to the success of flexible working is buy-in from management teams. Help smooth the way and ensure they feel confident managing staff in the new world of work by providing them with the digital tools necessary to keep on top of a virtual workforce. And offer them the same flexibility.

4/ Experiment: Run small experiments testing different ways of working to find the best fit for a particular team. For example. let the creative team try working from different locations to boost creativity and get new inspiration.

5/ Be flexible:  There is quite simply no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to flex.  Consider everything from compressed hours, to part time, different start times or working remotely. And really think through what arrangement would work best for you and your employees.  

6/ Join our Diversity Bootcamp: If you’re interested in being at the f******* work forefront, we’re looking for four bold and brave agencies to lead the sector by joining our new pilot this autumn. Contact for more information.

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