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Did last week’s snow highlight the firms with poor flexible working practices?

30th January 2013

“Children revel in the delight of a day off school due to snow, but for adults, finding childcare options and battling the snowy, icy streets to the office can be a nightmare.” says Rebecca Hall, HR director, UK & Ireland at PR firm Edelman. She echoes the sentiments of many frustrated parents who found the recent bad weather made their working lives difficult. But for those working for businesses which are more adaptable, icy conditions should not slip anyone up.

Describing how Edelman helps its workers, Hall says: “When it comes to dealing with snow, or in fact any unforeseen circumstances that may affect our employees, we are flexible in our approach. During the recent dousing of snow experienced in London, employees were encouraged to work from home if necessary or to leave the office with enough time to ensure they got home safely.” Hall explains how the firm appreciates that working nine to five does not suit everybody all of the time, and offers remote working options including loan laptops, which help employees carry out their day-to-day jobs outside of the office.

As well as being creative about how people work, businesses must also make sure they are prepared to react quickly – being forewarned means being forearmed. Will Cairns, managing director of PR agency Bottle, says: “There is never an excuse for a communications blackout in bad weather. It was well forecast recently, so there was ample time to plan. We always monitor weather forecasts, and when snow is expected we communicate it to the company and people who have long commutes are told to work from home.”

Cairns describes how clients are also kept in the loop so they know how to reach their key contacts. Last, but not least, safety comes first, so no one is expected to risk dangerous conditions: “People who live locally have the option to work from home, but many want to come in. In this case we monitor the weather and if it gets to the stage where driving after dark is going to be unsafe, people travel home early. The phones are diverted so that all calls are answered.”

Safety first, forward planning and home working means that Britain’s “extreme” weather should never cast a cloud over our business. PRCA director general Francis Ingham says: "The PR industry, like any industry, is subject to the good old British shut down thanks to the 'wrong kind of snow', and that's why it's sensible for agencies to have a flexible working policy in place – enabling people to work from home when required.

"Remember – in the UK, parents of children under the age of 17 and carers have the statutory right to request flexible hours and have their application seriously considered. If rejected it must be for good business reasons. We heartily encourage all agencies and in-house teams to have a well-considered flexible-working policy."

Written by Daney Parker

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