Flexible working works for employees and employers.
In a global survey of 8000 employers and employees, 83% of respondents found that adopting flexible working policies improved productivity. 61% said it lead to higher profits, and 58% believed their flexible working policy had given their business a reputation boost.
Staff certainly want the option of flexible working arrangements. UK research found that 42% of full time workers would like to work flexibly at their current job, and 70% would love to adopt this style of work at some point in the future.
So, if flexible working amounts to a win-win situation for employees and employers alike, why isn’t it the norm?
Many managers are unfamiliar with what flexible working policies entail on a practical level. There may be concerns about communication, or worries that staff will take advantage of the system. Ultimately, however, the biggest barrier to flexible working at most companies is the company’s culture.
While the image of the stereotypical homeworker in his pyjamas is rather outdated now, many managers (and employees) continue to equate ‘face time’ to productivity. This misconception remains integral to the culture of the majority of companies across the globe, but the advent of teleworking technologies means that we’re starting to see this change.
As more and more companies embrace flexible working, it’s time to start asking different questions:
- How can we maximize the productivity of employees who take advantage of flexible working policies?
- Are there any traits that are likely to lead to more or less productive remote working?
- How can we find the perfect form of flexible working for each employee?
Let’s try and get started on these three major questions.
Employee (and employer) Needs
Flextime, compressed hours, teleworking, job sharing, part time working – these forms of flexible working are designed to fulfill different employee and employer needs.
You might have a salesperson with a commute from hell who wants to avoid both rush hours – flextime would allow them to do so. Someone in HR would love to be able to cut their hours so they could meet their kids at the school gates. An admin assistant whose partner works weekends might like to use compressed hours to limit her working week and spend Fridays with her partner. Alternatively, an employer may be struggling with office space and sees desk sharing as the solution.
The point is this: a one-size-fits-all approach to flexible working isn’t going to cut it!
Your employees all have different needs and preferences – and you must decide which types of flexible working arrangements your business can and will accommodate.
Flexible Working Arrangements & Personality traits
Every employee is different. Not just in the way they work, but also in their temperament, their motivations and their values. All too often, corporate structures fail to account for the varying traits of employees. Workplace conflicts often result, swiftly followed by a fall in engagement and a rise in turnover rate.
It pays to take note of personality dimensions and traits, whether through casual observation or, more effectively, through psychometric testing. Understanding how your employees work most productively is essential if you want to draw up an effective flexible working arrangement with them.
In particular, consider these traits:
- Introversion – Typically, introverts will prefer working alone or within small teams. Remote working is a great option for many of these employees.
- Spontaneity – Flexible workers often have less rigid schedules, so if your employees tend to be more spontaneous, this type of arrangement might be more suitable for them. However, employees who crave structure can still work effectively through other arrangements, such as compressed hours.
- Results-driven – These employees don’t care about the journey, only the destination. As long as they have the right tools, they’ll work just as productively remotely as they do in the office.
- Adaptability – These employees thrive on change. You can count on them to keep up the pace as they switch between the office, their home, and their local cafe – and even fulfill different roles as and when they’re needed.
- Ability to focus – If an employee can barely make it ten minutes into a task before getting distracted, compressing their hours into longer days may not be a wise decision.
Using communication to bridge the gaps
The key is to use technology to overcome the obstacles that teleworking and flex-hours bring. Use Skype or other video technology to hold virtual meetings when some staff are away from their desks. Encourage employees to use Slack, Google Hangouts or other messaging applications to keep in touch.
Additionally, remote workers should be encouraged to visit the office on a regular basis – perhaps once or twice a month – giving them a chance to catch up with colleagues and properly meet new hires.
Feedback and refinement
If in doubt about an employee’s ability to work productively from home or with differing hours, give it a trial run for a week. Have a feedback session and see what worked, and what didn’t. You can then decide whether that particular flexible working arrangement is likely to be successful in the long term, and the nature of any changes that need to be made.
Above all, the most important thing to remember when planning flexible working arrangements is that they should be mutually beneficial – if they’re damaging your company or aren’t achieving the results you’d hoped for, it’s time for a rethink.
To sum up, your flexible working policy must reflect the differing needs and personality traits of employees – in a word, it should be flexible.
Flexible working isn’t for everyone, and employers mustn’t expect every employee to simply accept it right away. However, with a combination of good communication, an understanding of employee traits, and sound use of technology, you’re well on your way to creating a flexible working strategy that more than pays for itself. If your employees are happy, they’ll work harder for you – and they’ll stick around even if the going gets tough.
So, how does your company handle flexible working? What traits do you think employees need to work well remotely? Share in the comments below!