The company, which employs nearly 4,000 people across the UK, is encouraging colleagues across the business to experiment with different working patterns that take into account individual preferences, with the aim of enabling everyone to perform at their best.
It was approved in order to make the business more inclusive, helping it to attract and develop a more diverse workforce.
The approach is summarised in a set of flexible working principles, which clarify that flexible working should be for everyone and 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.
They were introduced in response to feedback from staff, which highlighted that almost 90% of colleagues would prefer a mix of home and office working in the future.
A separate survey of just over 1,000 parents, launched as part of Working Families’ #FlexTheUK campaign, which is supported by Wates Group, also showed that parents overwhelmingly want employers to create more flexible jobs (84%), and would consider positions advertised as flexible more attractive when looking for work in the future (69%).
The new principles are applicable to both office and site teams, as well as to all the new roles advertised by the company.
In addition to this, Wates announced that all its non-site offices will operate on a flexible basis, with employees able to book workstations via an online system.
“As a family business, we are committed to doing everything we can to help colleagues achieve a better work-life balance,” said David Allen, chief executive at Wates Group.
“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.
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“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; 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.”
To promote these new ways of working, the group’s fit-out business, Wates Smartspace, has redesigned its main working area within Wates’ Leatherhead headquarters, creating a set of configurable spaces specifically designed to encourage collaboration.
Mark Tant, managing director at Wates Construction, acknowledged that, for some, getting used to the idea of flexible working would require a mind-shift.
“The pandemic has shown that we are able to work more flexibly and more intelligently to accommodate our colleagues’ needs and encourage better results for our customers.
“However, if our industry is to become more inclusive, it is fundamental that we continue to break down ingrained cultures and adopt new approaches that allow us to appeal to a more diverse workforce.”
Jane van Zyl, CEO of national work-life balance charity Working Families, added: “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.
“It’s why we were so pleased to partner with Wates on our recent #FlexTheUK campaign: we want to show that whether it’s flexing hours, working patterns or location, flexible, family-friendly working practices don’t just bring huge benefits for employees — they make sound business sense too.”
Last year, Wates revealed a complete overhaul to its family friendly policies to enable both men and women to manage personal and professional commitments as part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle, with its benefits package including increased maternity and enhanced paternity/partner leave, carers’ leave, and improved bereavement leave.