Case study

Flexible working - the law and best practice

Promoting flexible working - TYF Group

The TYF Group is an adventure, education and leisure business, based in St Davids, Pembrokeshire. Managing director Andy Middleton explains how flexible working arrangements help the company to boost staff motivation and meet its business goals.

What I did

Make a strategic decision

"We run four divisions with a year-round staff of 15, growing to around 55 during the busy summer season. We made a strategic decision to introduce flexible working several years ago.

"The core of our business is in adventure training and personal development. This means that we're constantly in contact with clients who have forward-thinking employment policies. We were able to compare our own policies against theirs and get ideas.

"We also talked to staff about their goals and expectations. We decided to re-think and adapt our policies to meet employees' needs rather than expecting staff to fit their lives around us."

Introduce policies

"We use several methods of flexible working, varied according to individual needs and business priorities. Part-time working, flexible hours, home working, shift swapping and sabbaticals have all been successful for us, although it's been a process of trial and error. You have to accept that it's not a 'one size fits all' solution and modify arrangements that aren't working as you go along.

"Our employees know that as long as the customer doesn't suffer, budgets are met and the job gets done, the company will consider most requests favourably. We make our policies clear at interview and induction so staff know what to expect and what's expected of them."

Embrace the concept

"We plan flexible working arrangements at management level and line managers monitor performance against targets, but it has to become part of the company culture in order to work really well.

"There are cost implications, but the pay-back is definitely worthwhile. We now have a highly motivated work force who, through good communication, understand the impact of their actions on the company balance sheet and take responsibility for their working hours. For example, a staff member recently took a two-month sabbatical in Mexico and arranged her own cover for the duration, which worked very smoothly.

"Overall, we have excellent staff loyalty, high productivity and flexible working has enhanced our reputation with customers too."

What I'd do differently

Have principles not rules

"When we first introduced flexible working, like most companies, we started with a set of fixed dos and don'ts. Over the years, we've learnt that it's less about enforcing rules and more about instilling values and principles."

Learn from mistakes

"It's easy to panic when something goes wrong and start questioning if flexible working is right for you. Once we recognised that a few mistakes wouldn't damage our business, we became more open to trying new methods."