13 April 2022

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Why eCommerce Needs Flexible-Working

Flexible-working, dynamic-working, hybrid-working – whatever you call it, the point is many industries and businesses across the country are increasingly acknowledging that everyone has the right to a healthy, work-life balance.

The eCommerce industry is no different. While masses of retail jobs were lost during the Covid-19 Pandemic, in other areas such as eCommerce and the technology industry in general, employee demand soared. Our industry boomed in the months after March 2020 meaning eCommerce businesses were facing fierce competition to attract and retain top talent.

As an eCommerce agency we feel that too and have grown to such an extent that over the last two years we’ve doubled in size and understand how crucial it is to not only attract the talent we want to attract but retain them too.

Like a lot of businesses, and in particular very busy agencies, The Great Covid Resignation hit us and even though we were growing we still had staff leave for jobs that offered home-working, or allowed them to live in the Midlands but work for London agencies. The scope of opportunity increased which meant we had some decisions to make.

Flexible working was one of those decisions. We always believed we were flexible, after all, the right to flexible working was introduced nearly ten years ago, but what the pandemic forced us and many other businesses to do was truly reflect on how flexible we really were.

We’re a great team, an incredibly busy team and like many other agencies, we thrive on pushing ourselves for our clients, not just meeting but exceeding their expectations. However what we quickly came to realise, even before the pandemic, was this commitment didn’t require a festishisation of work – working flat-out 24/7 doesn’t help anybody and we certainly didn’t expect this from our team. We wanted to grow as a business and we wanted to help our clients grow too, which meant we didn’t just need our people to work hard, which of course they do, but we needed them to flourish.

It’s no secret either that if a business wants a diverse and inclusive workforce (and to be clear, every business should want this) then they need flexible working in its truest form. It can’t just be available for women/mothers it has to be available for everyone. That said, there’s a reason why women/mothers make the most flexible working requests.

Conversations and research we’ve conducted as part of The Women’s Domain campaign, our in-depth look into the representation of women within the eCommerce industry, has hinted that even in the tech world women who have children have seen their careers stutter – particularly those working towards leadership roles – because the flexibility they require to balance work, life and let’s face it, childcare costs, hasn’t always been available. It’s not industry-wide yet.

“Flexible-working is the key to unlocking women’s careers. You can’t be questioning why there are no women at the top when you’re stunting their careers the minute they have a child” Mother Pukka (Anna Whitehouse, founder or FlexAppeal on Maybe Baby podcast)

So why don’t more men/fathers ask for flexible hours? Recent research shows that there is still work to be done to tackle the stigma men face with these requests meaning that men are less likely to apply for part-time hours and more likely to be judged negatively for requesting it. (Source The Guardian)

Offering condensed hours or part-time hours to working parents shouldn’t be difficult. Two members of our leadership team (male and female) work 4-days per week to balance childcare and we have other members of the wider team take advantage of this too. The work they produce is, as usual, exemplary and we’ve seen no negative impact to our bottom line and perhaps more importantly with the impact they have on our clients’ success.

Being able to offer flexibility on where our team works has also been important. We introduced our Hybrid-working policy last year because while 5874 Commerce will never be a fully-remote company, we wanted to make sure we attracted the right person for the right job whether they lived in Birmingham or the Bermuda Triangle. Empowering employees to choose the days they work from home brings all kinds of benefits; work-life balance, less distraction with certain tasks, less time commuting to work etc – the list goes on.

This approach is also becoming the norm within the industry too. BigCommerce, arguably one of the biggest employers in our space, gives their employees the choice to work fully onsite, fully remote or a range of hybrid options too.

We also adjusted our working week from 40 hours to 37.5 hours. Have we seen a drop in productivity? No, of course not. But we have seen members of the team be able to fit working around the school drop off made a little easier or catch that slightly earlier train home – maybe to head to the gym or meet friends after work. Those aren’t small things, they’re huge when talking about work-life balance.

So does the eCommerce industry need flexible working? If we want to attract and retain top talent, keep our teams engaged and provide top-level customer satisfaction then yes we do. Industry-wide consistency is key and as leaders in this space we feel we have a responsibility to set the example. We’ve made great strides here at 5874 Commerce but there’s always work to be done and as we grow we’ll keep evolving and we’ll keep striving to be the best company we can be, not just for our clients but for our employees too.




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