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Wates Group adopts company-wide flexible working

The company, which employs nearly 4,000 people across the UK, is calling on its colleagues across the business to experiment with different working patterns to boost productivity and improve their working life.

The decision makes Wates one of the first construction companies to support flexible working across its entire business, including employees who work on site. The new approach says Wates will make the business “more inclusive”, helping it to attract and develop a more diverse workforce.

From site workers to head office, all new roles are to be advertised as flexible and and teams are being encouraged to develop working patterns that take into account individual preferences, enabling everyone to perform at their best. By 2025 the Group intends all roles to be flexible.

The approach is summarised in a set of Flexible Working Principles, which clarify that flexible working should be for everyone, and is applicable to both office and site teams. Wates’ Flexible Working Principles were introduced in response to feedback from staff, which highlighted that almost 90 per cent of colleagues would prefer a mix of home working and office working in the future.

Construction teams at Wates have been piloting the approach, with individuals changing their shift start or end times to accommodate caring responsibilities or other family needs, as well as to allow time for activities such as studying or team sports that promote health and wellbeing. Some colleagues have asked to take longer lunch breaks or to perform more of their work from home.

David Allen, Chief Executive at Wates Group, said: “As a family business, we are committed to doing everything we can to help colleagues achieve a better work-life balance. 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.

“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; to 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.”

Jane van Zyl, CEO of national work-life balance charity Working Families, said: “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 pattern or location, flexible, family-friendly working practices don’t just bring huge benefits for employees they make sound business sense too.”

As well as launching flexible working, Wates has announced that all its non-site offices will operate on a flexible basis, with employees able to book workstations via an online system.

To promote these new ways of working, the Group’s fit-out business, Wates Smartspace, has redesigned the main working area within Wates’ Leatherhead headquarters, creating a colourful and contemporary set of configurable spaces that have been designed specifically to encourage collaboration a template for post-pandemic offices.

Last year, Wates also announced a complete overhaul of its family friendly policies to enable both men and women to manage personal and professional commitments as part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Its benefits package includes enhanced paternity/partner leave, increased maternity leave, carers’ leave and improved bereavement leave.

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