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Small change, big impact: Kilpatrick Blane Services

When Sarah Usher, Process and Business Development Manager at Kilpatrick Blane Services, attended our Dentons event in February 2018, she had a certain idea of what flexible working meant.

She thought that it was a great tool to help parents, but she didn’t realise how it could affect all employees. That was until she participated to a roundtable led by Chris Torres of Senshi Digital. Senshi reduced their working day to six hours, with amazing effects on productivity (and went on to win two categories of the 2018 Scottish Employers Awards).

This made Sarah think that “family friendly working didn’t have to be just about mothers, but about everyone”. Chris suggested she read “Productivity Ninja”, a book on how working day patterns can affect productivity, which had a big influence on her. At the same time, however, she had to think carefully about how to apply its lessons to their specific work setting: “construction is growing right now, so it’s hard to recruit more flexibly because of specialist skills that are needed in certain patterns. Part of my role in the business is exactly to be more family friendly and more inclusive, but you have to adapt solutions to your specific business”.

Sarah presented her simple proposal: using Friday as a mop up day- the morning is used to catch up on the week and plan the following one, and all the staff leaves at 2pm, with no change in salary to the hours.

Managing Director Jillian Anderson explains that KBS was no stranger to flexible working policies; they offer support to parents, grandparents and carers, and offer home working in some positions. However, this was a different approach; a blanket reduction in hours, in a field with heavy workload. Jillian admits that the idea was daunting at first: “It was quite scary for me, simply because of the heavy workload involved in our job”.

She was originally planning to continue working from home after two o’clock, but Sarah specifically barred her from doing that, saying she needed to do something for herself. Jillian explains that the change has affected more than she thought. “Now on Fridays I get pampered and visit family- it’s my time! It’s not just a matter of the fewer hours; specifically setting aside that time to do things for myself has been great”.

Sarah jokingly confirms that when she presented the idea, “the staff looked a bit horrified”; but within a few weeks they realised that this was the way to go. She and Jillian both agree on the positive effects that the change has had on staff: the team has a more positive attitude, people are generally happier, and the quality of the work has also improved. The rate of people having to redo things, or work late into the night to catch up, has reduced.

When asked about future plans, Jillian and Sarah are quite positive. “We have no current plans to do more in terms of hours”, Sarah says, “but we are still thinking of how we can further improve attitude in the workplace”. She’s also been considering adding some new KPIs, such as Happiness and Excellence, to measure their progress in quantifiable ways. Jillian is on board with possible new projects: “This process allows people to still remain creative, and I want to embrace that. My mind is open to new ideas and good practice; after all we work to live. Balance is important”.

By Anna Viceconti

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