Informa Business Information, Commended 2014, The DTCC Best for Innovation Award

Informa Business Information, a division of Informa PLC, is a publisher of predominantly digital information, providing products and services to a large range of sectors, from pharma to maritime and commodities to law.  When they decided to move offices in London in 2013, they identified an opportunity to look at the way that their employees really worked, and to use the move as a way of re-invigorating the workforce. With pressure on costs, it was decided that – if feasible – a smaller office could work provided employees were able to work more flexibly. Analysis of working patterns showed that this should be achievable, as a maximum of 67% of people were only ever in on a given day, utilising just over half the available desks. A generally positive view of flexibility meant that an initiative to expand the use of remote working was conducive with the grain of the culture, although a staff survey did uncover a number of employees who wanted to work more flexibly but felt that their manager was not entirely supportive. In order to change this perception, when the premises move was announced so was the formal commitment to roll out flexible working to all employees, regardless of grade, role or length of service. Employees could choose whether to become a permanent home worker or work flexibly.

The Division applied a principles based approach to flexible working rather than create a raft of policies and processes. The goal was to keep administration to an absolute minimum. To help drive this huge cultural change and to ensure the initiative wasn’t influenced by individual preferences, no manager was allowed to reject a homeworking request nor restrict their teams from working flexibly.  Training was a fundamental element of the move to more flexible working, and key to the success of the implementation. Training in dealing with change was available to anyone who wanted it, and every manager and employee was given training on working in a flexible environment.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive.  Since August, the division has converted almost 100 employees to being permanent homeworkers. A small number of staff remain based full-time in the office and sit at fixed desks, but the majority work flexibly.  The most common work pattern is to work three days in the office and two days at home, although this can vary from week to week depending on business need.  There have been very few new formal flexible working arrangements (typically only relating to a reduction in hours) requested as they are no longer needed. The way that people work in the office has also radically changed. Other than the office based staff who sit at fixed desks, no-one has a permanent desk or an office, including the CEO. This is deliberate to convey commitment and support for the initiative from the top.  The office is organised in neighbourhoods but employees can choose to sit anywhere.  Homeworkers and flexible workers all have laptops, and there is a standard IT set up which enables everyone to work anywhere in the office or at home just as easily.

Although the catalyst for introducing flexible working was the office move, the division fundamentally believes that offering flexible working makes employees happier, more productive, and a more loyal workforce.  They have already seen positive tangible benefits.  From a financial perspective reducing the real estate footprint will save around £500,000 on rental costs per year.  Many employees say they are more productive now, and there’s an upbeat positivity throughout the office.  Colleagues that rarely mixed before sit alongside one another and the Board are much more visible and approachable because they sit out on the open floor.  Employees describe it as feeling like they are working for an entirely different company.

Our Company’s move to our new office, culture and flexible working has been unquestionably the best development in the 13 years I have been with the organisation.

My team have responded magnificently, they feel more empowered and engaged in their daily roles and the business generally. There is more of a buzz, more of a can do attitude, which has led to improvements in pace and performance, with staff suggesting flexible working has improved their personal efficiency/output by about 20%.

Not only have I seen business improvements but flexible working has significantly improved our work life balance and morale. On a personal level I now regularly spend quality time with my youngest daughter in the evenings which makes us both happy. The bottom-line is that happy people make the best and most productive staff.