By Andrew Dobbie

If we rewind to pre-pandemic, the phrase ‘flexible working’ was mainly reserved for a lucky few on seldom occasion.

Yes, in principle flexible working has always sounded good, but in reality, it’s been unavailable for the vast majority of people. Particularly in high-touch business or client facing roles; working from home or irregular hours has just never really been an option.

Fast forward 12 months and lockdown has forced many businesses to fully adopt flexible working; business owners have worked hard to master the art of “at-home” – from investing in the right communications tools to how we better share information and gather ideas.

But beyond the countless tools and zoom calls, the pandemic has brought much more than digital acceleration to businesses. Yes, there has been fear and challenges. Fear of the unknown. Communication gaps. Management challenges. But ultimately, we have seen real benefits born from this brave new flexible world.

When Covid first raised its ugly head, MadeBrave were prompt to react – creating smaller, fixed working groups to help drive-down workplace risk. As cases climbed, we then made the decision ahead of government advice to send our team home. It was scary, but it was essential.

More recently, just a few weeks ago, we unveiled our brand new Flexibility Policy, which we developed with Flexibility Works – a social business supported by the Scottish Government.

Our new policy offers our entire team of 50 total flexibility in working times, locations and taking leave. Based on our guiding principles of freedom, trust and respect, it introduces three new ways of working: Flexi-Time (flexibility on working times), Flexi-Desk (on locations) and Flexi-Leave (around taking leave).

Though it’s not a new concept, offering flexibility is highly appealing to job seekers and continues to grow in popularity as a benefit. And already, as a business we are seeing the many benefits.

Yes, we have a fully open and operational physical office space, but this is now a destination for our team – not a mandatory place they must work from.

Some of our MadeBravers find that they are infinitely more productive in the studio, and don’t believe they’ll return to home-working at all.

Others are cherishing the extra time with their little ones and doing the daily nursery run.

Others are looking forward to being free from the stress caused by commuting to work on a daily basis, instead choosing to split their week. And some of our team are fully remote and based all around the world, from London to the Netherlands.

But even as we begin to emerge from 365 days of lockdown, it’s more than apparent that the way we worked “before” needs to change. And in fact, everything that we have been through has presented a unique opportunity to re-imagine and redefine the future of our work lives. Certainly for MadeBrave, we have tried to start again with a beginner’s mind.

Like a giant magnifying glass, it’s illuminated the many drawbacks of a rigid work environment, while reminding us of the importance of health and wellbeing above all. As lockdown restrictions ease and we begin to return to normal, we now have a huge opportunity to address the needs of our team; to say, “hang on a minute - let’s not go back to normal”. Normal wasn’t that great anyway.

Flexible working should no longer be considered a “nice to have”, but a “must have”.

Ultimately, making flexible working the norm stands to benefit both employers and their people by widening talent pools, improving diversity and boosting productivity.

For us, our brand new policy is our flag in the sand and we hope it inspires other businesses and employers to reimagine the broader working world, and to help accelerate a culture of greater work-life balance and workplace flexibility.

Andrew Dobbie is the founder and chief executive of global branding agency MadeBrave