Flexible working is now available to many employees and companies worldwide. Organisations offer different perks from adaptable working hours to employing freelancers to handle niche tasks and UK businesses are increasingly entrusting their employees to choose their own way to work.
The culture of flexible working is still one to be learnt though by many employers. Try not to adopt an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach – your employee is still your responsibility whether they work remotely or not. Keeping them in the loop and engaged with the company is still essential to both their wellbeing and the companies.
Reports show that 51% of British workers find the office unproductive, so finding new ways to work are, and should be, firmly on companies’ agenda.
Here are some tips to ensure your business approaches flexible working in a way that pays dividends for years to come.
Keep up with the culture
Flexible working is a way of working that still needs to be learnt and well managed. Your employees will not automatically become productive ‘anywhere workers’ without guidance. Although this approach may come to some naturally, the majority of people will not be familiar enough with the practice to benefit from it fully. It is your responsibility as an employer to manage them through it.
Employees will need to acclimatise to a remote working policy and should be introduced gradually. To begin with, encourage people to work from home as often as is feasible. Ensure adequate training is available and given to all employees – this should cover time management, best practices and best places to work. All assisting in people being productive outside of the office.
Provide a platform for employees to express their concerns about flexible working within your training sessions. Schedule regular team meetings, checking in both over a medium such as Skype as well as face-to-face perhaps on a weekly basis. This provides your staff with a sense of structure as well as making sure everyone is on the same page and going in the same direction.
Choosing your software
Once you have developed a plan and delivered sufficient training, the next thing you will need is software. This is the foundation of the entire flexible working culture and should be planned and purchased carefully.
Most importantly, your software needs to be powerful enough to handle collaboration. There may be multiple people viewing a document from various locations, edits may be lost and tricky to collate. Document sharing would be a standard feature of the software too.
The software also needs to be able to move with the times. Does it work on different operating systems? Are there mobile apps? Is it regularly updated? All these are issues you must analyse before adoption.
Get your staffs input on your software choice. Use free trials and get your team to try out different software. As they will be using it on a daily basis, they need to be confident that it will be the core part of their working lives.
And the hardware?
Supplying computers and mobile devices or subsidising mobiles is an essential part of the flexible working culture. Mobiles are of utmost importance, keeping team members in touch, enabling the option of working while travelling between meetings and can also act as a hotspot for a computer if there are any internet downtimes.
Furniture is another important element and companies can either purchase suitable furniture or provide advice on the type of equipment required at home. Sitting poorly can damage both productivity and health, so should be high on the agenda of companies rolling out a remote working culture.
Lead by example
If you are expecting to drive your business into the future, the culture has to begin with you. Leading by example is the key way to cement what is expected of your workers.
Make sure you are readily available to your staff. Provide regular updates and check in with them regularly to monitor their progress. Show that you are human too and voice any difficulties you may have had and how you overcame them.
Not everyone will have a positive reaction to a flexi-working culture. Millennials and older workers may have different levels of comfort with the trend, with a 2015 E&Y survey finding that one in six millennials (compared to the average, which was 1 in 10) are likely to have ‘suffered a negative consequence as a result of having a flexible work schedule.’
Everyone is different and peoples personalities will be the key factor as to whether they thrive or have a difficult time adapting. Make sure that additional support is offered to these employees until they get into the swing of things. This will help them overcome their fears and realise the fantastic benefits of flexible working.
A positive flexible working culture will not happen overnight and will require an investment of time. But, with a dedicated, positive team, the benefits that flexible working can deliver are huge. Employees will be more productive and feel happier about their lives, benefiting the company hugely.
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