Culture   //   December 27, 2022

How recruitment firms are embracing flexible working policies

This article is the last in a three-part series in which we round up a range of flexible models used by employers in different sectors.

Are recruitment firms practising what they preach when it comes to flexible working? After all, these organizations have had a front-row seat to spot the evolving workforce trends, which in the last three years have seen demand for flexibility and, for some candidates, part- or fully-remote roles.

To find out how the most pioneering recruitment firms have changed their working methods, WorkLife spoke to various organizations within the industry. Here we consider the challenges and opportunities of embracing a four-day week – aka “Flex Friday” – digital detox holidays, and supporting employees to achieve the optimal work-life balance.

The four-day week (and more automation)

In January 2021, TechNET IT Recruitment became one of the first companies in the U.K. to trial a four-day working week – referred to internally as its “Flex Friday initiative.” Technology solutions made the switch to fewer days easier, said managing director Shayne Simpson. “Our tech stack has actively saved us over 13,305 hours on mundane admin tasks in the past 90 days, which frees up a lot of time that would normally be spent performing manual low-value tasks.”

Simpson conceded it was paradoxical that a recruitment firm had invested in technology despite the widespread concern that robots would supersede human jobs. “You could look at it two ways – you could expect more from your consultants or give the time back to them,” he said. TechNET IT Recruitment chose the latter, Simpson added, because the burnout of employees was more of a worry. 

“As long as they’re doing what they need to do [at work], in the nicest possible way, I don’t care where they are on a Friday,” he said. “When your employees know they can secure a three-day weekend every week – whether they spend that time with their children, their friends or having some hard-earned rest – it is a big motivational factor. We see the results through their output.”

The company is 78% up in sales, year over year, compared to a market average of around 20%. There have been other benefits. Simpson is confident the work culture has flourished because of taking Fridays off. “We have seen a distinct improvement in our team’s productivity and a general boost in office morale,” he said. 

Further, Flex Friday is a big draw for new TechNET recruits, according to a recent engagement survey. “We asked them why they joined … and most responded with the level of benefits or the four-day working week,” added Simpson.

Digital detox holidays

As one would imagine, Flexa Careers, a global directory for verified flexible companies, lives and breaths flexible working. For instance, 45 days annual leave is standard, and most employees can work remotely all the time, apart from a monthly in-person meeting at the London headquarters. 

Its newest flexible-working initiative, however, is rather unusual. For its “digital detox holidays,” the company pays for staff to stay in cabins in the U.K. countryside. Employees are not allowed to use their laptops, smartphones, and other digital distractions – meaning they can completely switch off from work and recharge themselves.

“It might seem ironic for a remote-first tech company to promote digital detoxes,” said Flexa Careers CEO and co-founder Molly Johnson-Jones. “But being immersed and reliant on tech in our everyday working lives has made us more aware of the need to step away from our screens.”

Mindful of the cons and pros of technology, Johnson-Jones had previously established company-wide shutdown weeks to “give staff a chance to enjoy time off without worrying about email and Slack notifications from colleagues.” 

Indeed, the success of those weeks gave her the confidence to take the next step and launch digital detox holidays. “The difference it’s made so far has been immense,” said Johnson-Jones. “Without digital distractions, staff come back more focused and inspired as a result.”

Optimizing a work-life balance

In November, Flexa Careers, which analyzes the flexible working policies of organizations across a range of industries, praised TPP Recruitment. For a second consecutive year, the London-based firm, which has 47 employees (and a 70:30 ratio of females to males), was classed as “a truly flexible employer.” 

According to Flexa’s calculations, the company achieved “a fantastic employer and employee score of 90%,” catapulting it into the top-five most flexible recruitment businesses for 2022. So what is TPP Recruiting doing so well?

The firm has offered flexibility for years, which is rare within the recruitment industry. It is a remote-first company, provides workplace flexibility with no core hours, recognizes that employees have different priorities and commitments in life, and is open to job-sharing, compressed hours, and part-time workers.

“Our approach to flexible working is centered around mutual trust, honesty, and transparency,” a spokesperson said. “Business continuity is very important to us, so we have built additional support into our structure to ensure our flexible working environment does not compromise the quality of service our candidates and clients rely on.” They added that TPP fully supports “each and every employee in achieving a work-life blend.”

Diane Durberry, a client relations manager, is one of the company’s many happy workers. “I’ve worked in the recruitment sector for nearly 25 years, and TPP Recruitment’s attitude to flexible working is incredibly unique, especially for recruitment companies where, typically, you are expected to be present in the office every day,” she said. 

Durberry underlined the importance of being “treated like adults” and the benefits of focusing on “productivity rather than presenteeism.” She added: “This grown-up way of working is great for my mental well-being. I don’t feel under pressure or stressed due to trying to balance work and life, and I am more productive each day.”