Construction, property services and development company the Wates Group has announced the adoption of company-wide flexible working.
The company, which employs nearly 4,000 people across the UK, is encouraging colleagues across the business to experiment with different working patterns that improve their working life.
All new roles also being advertised as flexible. Teams are being encouraged to develop working patterns that take into account individual preferences, to enable workers "to perform at their best".
The decision makes Wates one of the first construction companies to support flexible working across its entire business, including employees who work on site. The company says the new approach "will make the business more inclusive, helping it to attract and develop a more diverse workforce".
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.
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.”
Jane van Zyl, CEO of national work-life balance charity Working Families, said: "Wates’ Flexible Working Principles, and the culture change they are ushering in, is an extremely positive and inspiring thing to see. We know that for too long flexible working has been seen as the preserve of office workers, but this shows that flex is possible in roles whether you’re sat at a desk or working on site."
As well as launching flexible working, Wates said that all its non-site offices will operate on a flexible basis, with employees able to book workstations via an online system.
To promote these new ways of working, the group’s 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 a template for post-pandemic offices".
Last year, Wates also announced a complete overhaul of its family-friendly policies to enable both men and women to manage personal and professional commitments as part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Its industry-leading benefits package includes enhanced paternity/partner leave, increased maternity leave, carers’ leave and improved bereavement leave.