WHSmith delivers on flexible working

Scott Loudon takes advantage of flexible working at WHSmith. And as the company’s Group Recruitment Manager he knows it’s key to attracting talent.

The words flexible working written on a post it note next to a keyboard and a pen


There was a time when flexible working at WHSmith probably amounted to getting up early to deliver the papers!

These days it’s a lot more sophisticated than that. 

The leading bookseller, stationer and newsagent first opened its doors over 200 years ago. Now it has over 1,000 stores in the UK across High Streets and prime travel locations, and hundreds more internationally. As the festive season approaches, their stores will be festooned with books, stationery, toys and Christmas gifts ahead of their busiest time of the year.

Scott Loudon is Group Recruitment Manager at the company, and dad to baby Ada. The former role means he has to think about how to attract people to WHSmith. The latter role means he knows from experience what working dads need.

He talked to us about his own experience of flexible working and the patterns he’s spotted among candidates increasingly interested in working in different ways.

Scott with baby Ada

What’s your role and what does it involve?

My position is Group Recruitment Manager at WHSmith. Myself and my team are accountable for delivering the end to end recruitment service for our Head Offices and Stores across the WHSmith Group, both within the UK and Internationally. We’re responsible for the overall recruitment strategy and attraction plans, as well as end to end delivery of specific recruitment.

whsmith2 store front

What’s your flexible working schedule?

My flexible working schedule is relatively informal, I’m fortunate to have the trust and flexibility to work remotely throughout the week should I need. I can also vary the hours I work during the week to fit my work life balance, essentially working where and when I need to for the week ahead.

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What made you want to work flexibly?

Work life balance, being able to start earlier and finish earlier so I can put Ada to bed and spend quality time with her in the evening was the real driver for me. Being able to spend that quality time with her as well as take her to appointments etc without having to sacrifice or compromise anything work related, or vice versa is a great option to have.

Can you think of a particular occasion when working flexibly has helped?

My daughter went through a period where she was unwell around month four. During this period I worked from home multiple times to ensure I was there for my partner if she needed me without having to take time off work to be at home. I was able to provide advice and support to her without her having to call in the day and worry she was disturbing me in the middle of a meeting when she was worried.

That meant I was also still able to give my full focus to WHSmith without my mind worrying about my daughter and partner at home! I was also able to change my working pattern when I was in the office which allowed us both to be present to take her to doctors’ appointments.

Has it made you a better dad?

Yes definitely. Being able to be there for her in the evenings, spending that key bonding time and supporting my partner has greatly improved all of our lives as a family.

Has it made you a better employee?

I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s made me a better employee, but what I would say is it’s certainly allowed me to focus my productivity and output even further, to consistently give 110% for the business due to the level of trust and flexibility afforded to me and my personal life.

Given your role is in recruitment have you noticed more candidates asking for/expecting flexibility?

Yes we have. More and more candidates at all levels are exploring the opportunities of flexible working, and the key thing is that flexible working isn’t just working from home; it’s condensed hours, core hours, early starts for early finishes (or later) varied working patterns and just having that trust in your employees to deliver no matter where or when they are working.

Advice for any employer wary of embracing flexible working?

Don’t be wary. My team directly and I all work flexibly. A lot of employers are apprehensive of flexible working probably due to a lack of trust and visibility of productivity. However, empowering your employees to have this option, and make their work life balance suit will give them a higher level of pride, trust and respect for the business and in turn they will want to deliver more!

Flexible working has allowed for a higher output and efficiency for my team and myself. We find ourselves using our time much more productively by using our flexible working options, so it’s definitely something to consider; especially if you’re struggling to retain good employees!

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