Wates has asked its 4,000 employees across the business to experiment with different working patterns to boost flexibility, as it adopts flexible working across the business.
All new Wates roles, including those on site, will be advertised as flexibles and teams are being encouraged to develop working patterns that take individual preferences into account.
Construction teams at Wates have been piloting the approach, with individuals changing their shift start or end times to accommodate caring responsibilities or other family needs, as well as to allow time for activities such as studying or team sports that promote health and wellbeing. Some colleagues have asked to take longer lunch breaks or to perform more of their work from home.
The approach is summarised in a set of Flexible Working Principles, which clarify that flexible working should be for everyone, regardless of where they work; and that it should be achieved in a way that maintains or improves service delivery for customers, as well as being sensitive to the needs and preferences of the wider team.
Wates’ Flexible Working Principles were introduced in response to feedback from staff, which highlighted that almost 90% of colleagues would prefer a mix of home working and office working in the future. A separate survey of just over 1,000 parents, launched as part of charity Working Families’ #FlexTheUK campaign, which is supported by Wates Group, showed that parents want employers to create more flexible jobs (84%), and would consider jobs advertised as flexible more attractive when looking for work in the future (69%).
Wates has also announced that all its non-site offices will operate on a flexible basis, with employees able to book workstations via an online system. Its fit-out business, Wates Smartspace, has redesigned the main working area within Wates’ Leatherhead headquarters, creating a colourful and contemporary set of configurable spaces that have been designed specifically to encourage collaboration.
Mark Tant, managing director, Wates Construction, acknowledged that for some, getting used to the idea of flexible working would require a ‘mind-shift’. He said: “The pandemic has shown that we are able to work more flexibly, and more intelligently, to accommodate our colleagues’ needs and to encourage better results for our customers. However, if our industry is to become more inclusive, it is fundamental that we continue to break down ingrained cultures and adopt new approaches that allow us to appeal to a more diverse workforce. As one of the first companies in the sector to open up flexible working to our whole business, we hope to lead the change to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to thrive, by adopting the working patterns that best suit them.”
David Allen, chief executive at Wates Group, said: “As a family business, we are committed to doing everything we can to help colleagues achieve a better work-life balance. The pandemic challenged us to work in different ways and to adapt. We learned a lot about how to work flexibly, and about how doing so can improve productivity, performance, health and happiness.
“We have listened to feedback from colleagues from across the group and, as part of launching our Flexible Working Principles, are encouraging them to use the next few months to experiment with their working patterns: to find what works for them; to show us what they want their working life to be like in the future; and to use these new flexibilities to support our goal of becoming the most trusted, sustainable and progressive business in the sector.”