Panelists for the first international working day event, held at The Office City coworking space, included Tom Oswald (ministry of labour), Michel-Edouard Ruben (Fondation Idea), Virginie Scuvée (coach), Tetyana Karpenko (The Loupe), and Sabina Guerrero (The Job Tailors)
Photo: The Job Tailors
Wednesday night marked the first occasion of international flexible working day being celebrated in Luxembourg through a specially-dedicated event. But Sabina Guerrero, founder of The Job Tailors, hopes that dialogue on flexibility within the grand duchy will accelerate.
Guerrero, who helped organise and moderated the panel discussion, told Delano she started her own company after becoming a mother. “I realised I was a different professional as well, and I wasn’t going to work the same way,” she said. Other parents expressed similar frustrations.
Her company now two years old, Guerrero thinks there’s still a long way for Luxembourg to go. “Culturally speaking, we still might judge colleagues who leave at 4pm, or we think working part-time means we’re not ambitious enough.” But a flexible workday policy isn’t about leaving early: it can incorporate flexible schedules (e.g., to avoid peak traffic times), teleworking, part-time working, compensation for extra hours. It can even mean allowing employees to manage working hours in a way that works for them--which often, in turn, even work out better for the company, Guerrero adds.
Guerrero has noticed a stark contrast when it comes to cultures. In the case of Nordic companies, “there’s clearly a big difference in mentality,” she says, adding that francophone countries have tended to be “more conservative” when it came to working a routine 9 to 5. She adds that it’s “very mixed” in Luxembourg.
Flexibility over salary
During Wednesday’s event, the audience was polled about the most important factors in their job, and 69% responded that they valued flexibility over salary or career advancement. This is in line with Guerrero’s own experience, both personally and professionally. “People are looking for happiness over a fixed salary,” she says.
Nearly 40% of respondents also believe there isn’t enough workplace flexibility within Luxembourg.
Yet, when asked why this was the case, 69% of the participants cited the fact that it wasn’t in tune with the company’s business model, management style or strategy.
So why the gap?
In some cases, “Companies are still afraid to speak about flexibility because it is linked to telework,” Guerrero says. They might feel as though they are “discriminating” between Luxembourg residents and cross-border workers. Yet, in cases where the company clearly communicates what the impact will be, the employees still accept it. “We are getting positive feedback from them saying yes, if we do the calculation, we are actually saving on daycare and so on,” Guerrero says. “When [companies] present it in a transparent way, employees are also motivated for that.”
Misconception of lost productivity
Another hurdle is the misconception that flexible working schedules equates with lost productivity. Yet in one pilot group, Guerrero says that over a year there was an increase in productivity by 23%.
But it’s important, she adds, that employees aren’t just “jumping into the water without knowing how to swim”. Trust is important, and Guerrero says it helps if a team is established, there is accountability but also that there is a culture of trust, including from the top. Managers can start by providing an example and encouraging employees to do the same.
The benefits are clear: employee choice increases job satisfaction, which reduces work-related stress that can potentially lead to burnout. But there are other benefits, perhaps not at first visible, Guerrero says. “When you work on flexibility, you work on different things that prepare for the future of work…a change in management style, becoming paperless, steps in becoming a more successful company.”