A fresh approach to flex
Chief Technology and Product Officer, BBC D&E
We live in dynamic times - the rate of change and progress is extraordinary - and at the BBC we continue to drive innovation on a global scale. To do this, we need the best teams that represent society and the audiences we serve. In BBC Design and Engineering (D+E), I want to create a culture that attracts the best talent and makes people want to stay and do the best work of their career; even in a really competitive field like technology. For me, a key characteristic of this culture is that it recognises that people need balance in their lives and accommodates flexible working.
My own story
That difficult balance between work and home is something we all understand. I became a dad for the second time last year. It is obviously a hugely important time for us as a family as we get to know our daughter (and sister) and watch her explore the world. But it’s a busy one too, with sleepless nights, my son’s activities and my wife returning to her own demanding job. I want to be present for my children as they grow but I also want to give my all to leading the BBC’s Design and Engineering team through very challenging and exciting times, so it takes careful diary management, compromise and understanding to make it all work.
I know I’m really lucky as I have a great team around me. We have all discussed how to make it work; they support me and, in turn, I support them to achieve our own versions of work-life balance. It means that I’m able to drop my son off at school at least once a week and I’m home early on another day to spend time with both children. In the team we have two job-sharing PAs and others who work from home and take extra time off outside term time. I am determined to develop a culture that accommodates different needs so we are flexible about working hours whatever the reason.
None of this is easy and, with D+E people all over the country, I don’t always succeed in accommodating everyone’s needs as well as I’d like to. But I’m honest about the competing priorities in my life and encourage others to be too.
In D+E, I’m championing pilots to bring in new people from a range of backgrounds. A Career Returners Programme will make the division a more accessible environment for women and men who have taken a career break and wish to return to the workplace. Meanwhile, our "Step into Tech" programme provides a free 14 week, part-time training programme giving people the necessary skills to apply for software engineering entry-level roles. But the success of these initiatives - in terms of attracting and retaining the best, diverse talent - also relies on us being able to offer flexible working practices that work for everyone.
This is why I believe that, throughout the BBC, we need to take a fresh look at flexible working. The BBC has recently conducted a review around Culture and Progression and flexible working placed in the top 3 priorities for both women and men working. It’s clear from research that the workforce of the future will place an even higher value on a good work life balance and a sense of purpose beyond financial success.
A new flexible working policy for the BBC
Of course, many people already work flexibly in the BBC and you can see some of those men and women’s stories on our D+E careers site. Their reasons for working flexibly are as diverse as the working patterns they’ve adopted. Parents, carers, downsizers, portfolio workers – there are many reasons and ways to work flexibly.
And there’s certainly more we can do to make this possible. Just as we are introducing technology at the BBC that enables people to work differently, like Skype for Business, so must our attitudes to work change: measuring performance not attendance; designing flexible working practices into our jobs and making flexibility open to all.
That is why I am so pleased to see a revised, more inclusive, flexible working policy in place at the BBC.
It has been designed to enable us to do all we can to accommodate flex working - recognising the potential benefits to both the business and individual. It includes an increased range of flexible options, supporting full time and reduced hours, such as staggered working hours, compressed hours and remote working. It also outlines a new approach to job shares and new working from home guidelines.
Applying this policy will, of course, take some practice. There will be some roles that are easier to flex than others, some roles will have specific operational barriers, some roles offer no control over when or where you work. Others may feel that moving into a more senior role just isn’t an option on a part-time basis. But this mustn’t stop us overcoming the fears associated with change and shifting the value we place on presenteeism. And we must also overcome the bias that part-time working means part-time ambition.
With this new policy in place, I’m keen we challenge ourselves on the barriers that are preventing more flexible working patterns – both full time and part-time – in the BBC. I will be asking my teams in D+E to take a fresh look at flex: to think about those barriers and how to overcome them. I want us to enable and nurture a new generation of talent in the BBC - those who might have thought our doors wouldn’t open because of their background, education or gender. I want to see job-shares and part-time workers at the most senior levels of the organisation and in every part of the BBC. I also want to work in an environment where we can all be honest about the other priorities in our lives – whatever they are - and have the flexibility to spend time on them. Find out more about flexible working on the BBC Design + Engineering Careers site: