MWH hits TV headlines with flexible working initiative

MWH's Jeannie Edwards speaking on BBC Breakfast.

MWH has been featured on the BBC’s Breakfast programme for its success in flexible working. Jeannie Edwards, MWH’s director of human resources, was interviewed on the programme following a conversation she’d had with the BBC’s Steph McGovern at the ACE’s Consultancy and Engineering Awards about the subject.

Edwards, an ACE board member who chairs ACE's HR and Best Business Practice Group and is a past Engineering Ambassador Awards winner, said: “I spoke to Steph at the ACE awards event back in May about our flexible working initiative and thought no more about it but hey presto, the BBC came to speak with me.

“It started with being aware that we had a problem, supported by solid metrics that showed staff turnover and reasons for turnover. We dug down into those reasons and realised that we weren't flexible enough as a company to accommodate the stresses and strains of modern life, especially given that often both partners work - and washing machines break down, dogs and cats get sick, as do children and parents. 

“We also saw that we weren't flexible enough to allow people to achieve personal as well as professional ambitions - so people were leaving rather than being able to, say, take a sabbatical to do something special, or leaving rather than committing to a charity once a month in working time.  This insight gave us the ability to take the issue to the senior management team and create the desire for change”, said Edwards.

“Once we had that buy in, we introduced a suite of initiatives from flexible working to enhanced maternity and paternity and sabbaticals as well as other types of flexibility. The key was not to have the whole thing heavily formalised and proceduralised, as long as it worked that was the main thing,” she said.

Edwards appeared on BBC Breakfast talking about MWH’s initiatives, gaining valuable publicity for the firm in the process. “We are outcome based - as long as the work gets done, its good.  The intended consequence was achieved - people were attracted to MWH and stayed with us more than before,” Edwards said.

“The unintended consequences were increased wellbeing and decreased sickness along with the high return rate we got from groups of people who would normally hop from competitor to competitor for an extra £1K or so a year. While you might not put a price on flexibility, the loss of it is very costly!” said Edwards.

If you would like to contact Andy Walker about this, or any other story, please email