Flexible Working Part 2: Feel the fear and do it anyway

Author Kerryn Strong
17/09/18

Flexible Working Part 2: Feel the fear and do it anyway

What’s stopping you from embracing Flexible Working in your business and what to do about it.

Does this sound like you? You’ve long been convinced of the many benefits of offering flexible working arrangements to your people, but you’ve been holding back. You’ve even been able to identify why. But just how can you overcome your fears in order to truly realise the proven benefits of flexible working?

 

The Concerns

Take a common flexible working arrangement, such as a ‘working from home’ day a week – you find yourself identifying with some of the following concerns; specifically that you will have to:

  • Work through the many practical and logistical considerations to enable working from home (i.e. what day of the week? who will be in the office? how will your employees access their files?),
  • Acquire the technology to ensure that working from home is practical (i.e. laptops, cloud-based storage, a strong internet connection, mobile phones and/or Skype),
  • Mitigate risk in the fact that Health and Safety responsibilities extend to the home office,
  • Field the fall-out of perceived unfairness within your team, if you have some roles that simply cannot be performed from another location (e.g. manufacturing roles / front of house roles),
  • Ensure that team communication and collaboration isn’t compromised when the team has fewer opportunities to all be together, or when a large portion of the team is not physically present,
  • Have frank discussions with those in your team who you’d prefer never worked from home as they are not performing to expectation,

And the big one:

  • You’ll have to somehow get a gauge on your employees’ productivity, as you won’t be relying on physically being able to see your people; the perception being that output won’t be as easy to monitor.

If it’s this last point that resonates, ask yourself this: are you judging your people’s performance on their presence at work between certain times? And if so, can you definitively say that this is effective?

 

Successfully Implementing Flexible Working Arrangements

Here’s what to consider

The Foundations

Company Values
Many flexible working arrangements – remote working in particular – hinge on trust between employee and manager. Having a strong set of well-embedded company values that your people buy into and live by – and no, it’s not enough that your values are displayed in fun lettering on the wall – provides the framework to be able to build this trust. Values guide common understanding of what behaviour is considered ‘ok’ within an organisation and what isn’t, what would be considered above-and-beyond and what would let the team down.

Policies
Having a sound set of Flexible Working policies in place that also outline the Health and Safety considerations and responsibilities involved with some flexible working arrangements is a good place to start. The intention is not to take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, but the opposite in fact – to simply state what’s available and expected when it comes to tailoring flexible working arrangements to individuals in your team or business.

Technology
Where there’s a challenge to be had, there’s probably an App for it! Aside from the technology needed to be able to work in a different physical location / remotely, there are various technology platforms that can be leveraged to assist with setting and keeping track of week by week productivity goals, as well as those that assist with team collaboration and communication.

Consult and Communicate
Before you go rushing around implementing anything new, first, ask your people what they want! Whether it’s in a team meeting or via a survey, get their ideas, and their feedback on yours. And then, when you go to implement something, tell them you’re doing it because it’s what they said they wanted! When it comes to communication, ‘more is more’.

Leadership

Management Fundamentals and Upskilling
Do you and your leaders know how to set expectations, how to give feedback, how to pull someone up who isn’t meeting expectation, how to empower your people, set goals, review progress and tap into / appeal to what motivates each individual in the team? If these management fundamentals aren’t firmly in place, you may find yourselves relying on your employees’ presence and hours as measures of their productivity.

Effective Outputs and Measures
Challenge yourself to consider measuring results and not hours. This shifts management focus to tangibles – is the work being produced high quality? Is it delivered on time? Does it meet your SLAs? Are your clients / customers satisfied? Are you meeting your revenue targets? Not presence.

To labour the point, seeing your people ‘clock in’ and ‘clock out’ and sitting at their desk all day, has very little baring on how productive they are being. This is because productivity comes down to the individual; it’s fuelled by a combination of moving parts, like motivation, values and work ethic, how connected the individual feels to the team and the business, and whether they see how their role plays a part in the business as a whole – just to name a few.

As we know, the more ‘engaged’ the employee, the more productive. So, it would make sense then, that when we look at flexible working, as well as effective outputs and measures of productivity, each individual and their role may be slightly different. This may seem like a lot of work for management – to consider each individual and their role – but it’s an investment that will pay off when you’ve created a self-starting, empowered, productive team that is pretty much running themselves!

Ongoing Goal Setting
Productivity becomes much less mystical – and easier to measure – when goal-setting becomes part of every-day practice. Here are some tips:

  • Set individual KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) based on team KPIs / goals, people know what they need to achieve individually to feed into the team and how the team contributes to the bigger picture
  • Encourage the setting of week by week productivity goals – in terms of projects to be delivered, milestones or timelines to be met
  • Set up weekly or daily WIP (work-in-progress) meetings where people share how they’re tracking and ask for and offer support in order to hit the week’s collective goals

And so, we loop back again to the question: do you know what good productivity looks like in your team? When it comes to flexible working, there’s a lot to consider, but if we can overcome some of our fears with some solid foundation work and great leadership, we’ll reap the rewards.

 

Feel free to get in touch with one of our team about how to go about introducing flexible working policies into your workplace.

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