American Express, Finalist 2014, The National Grid Best for Flexible Working Award

American Express has taken the approach that flexible working is business as usual, and that it isn’t simply an optional add-on. Flexibility, in its view, is a necessity to help employees work to their full potential.

American Express has developed a programme, BlueWork, that integrates flexible working into the core culture of the company. It has proved successful over time in delivering positive cultural change for the company, focusing on three goals: flexibility, collaboration and organisation. BlueWork is about how work is done, and provides the tools that are required to compete in a global market. It also presents a clear framework for flexible working – employees understand when they start a role which type of BlueWork style is appropriate. This also brings clarity for managers, who know what expectations will be, and reduces the potential for anxiety and worry about putting in place flexible arrangements.

American Express believes that employee choice about how and where they work creates the best environment possible to drive results. Since most work doesn’t require people to sit in the same seat every day, and some jobs allow people to work outside the office on an infrequent, frequent or permanent basis, it has established four work styles to meet these needs: Hub, Club, Home and Roam.

Hub employees have a fixed desk and are in the office every day; Club employees have flexibility about where they work and share their work environment; Home employees work out of their home three or more days a week; Roam employees are mainly on the road or working at customers’ sites and seldom use an American Express office. By creating the right work environment to suit different role types and different people, it supports employee effectiveness, and also attracts and retains the best talent for the business.

BlueWork allows American Express to use their real-estate space more efficiently. Costs are reduced, and the money saved reinvested into more ergonomic, better-designed workspaces. The workspaces are connected and flexible in order to support interaction within and across teams, and feature hot desks, collaboration spaces and huddle rooms. Technology plays a big part in making BlueWork a highly collaborative and productive working environment.

American Express has created an employee network, BlueEN, which focuses on supporting personal development and career progression, as well as ensuring a consistent experience for employees. BlueEN provides a voice for employees who work flexibly and helps to maintain a high level of engagement throughout the organisation.

American Express strongly believes that providing employees with choices about where and how they work leads to higher overall satisfaction, and has gathered evidence to support this view. Employee engagement is consistently higher among those who are in a BlueWork style of working – Club, Roam and Home – versus the traditional desk- based working style. Loyalty among Club workers is highest and Club and Home workers feel the strongest sense of belonging to American Express. More than half of BlueWork employees feel they can make the next career move at American Express.

Employees benefit from the flexibility in their personal lives, too. Work–life balance is improved by reducing commutes through increased home working. Being responsible for results and output provides employees with more choice about how and where they get their work done, thus allowing work to fit around life more successfully. Employees also feel more productive in BlueWork styles and, interestingly, performance is highest among those who Club or Home work. The ambition is that increased control and autonomy will create greater freedom and trust, which in turn contributes to loyalty and respect for the organisation.

Through the use of BlueWork, American Express has been able to adopt an extremely collaborative and results- oriented mindset that measures staff by what they do and not where they work. Currently, 4420 employees work out of a BlueWork environment in the UK: that’s 80% of the UK-based workforce.