Flexible working: how to make it work

Flexible working: how to make it work

The benefits of working from home have been high on the agenda following Working from Home Week at the end of January. Cityparents asked global coaching consultancy Talking Talent what makes a working from home arrangement a successful one for all, Lucinda Quigley, Head of Working Parents Coaching share some tips.

According to the Modern Families Index, an increasing number of parents feel that flexible working is a genuine option in their workplace. Yet, the number of parents working flexibly has dropped since 2015. Organisations worry that putting flexible arrangements in place will be viewed as managerial weakness; employees worry that using them will be seen as ‘slacking off’. Let’s shift focus from fears about how flexible working might look to its outcomes when business takes a holistic approach and attitudes and policies are in sync. Keeping these key enablers in mind when implementing policies will empower organisations to make flexible arrangements work for employer and employee alike. 

(1)     Communication: This is especially important to counteract the lingering stigma around flexible working. Employer and employee should be in constant conversation, giving feedback and adjusting accordingly. Positive recognition from colleagues will have a ripple-effect, making workers more likely to bring their energy to the business.  

(2)    Technology: The ‘lack of face-to-face communication’ argument is often used against flexible working, but agile workers are still in the office some of the time. With Facetime, Zoom and Skype to fill in the gaps and the reduced stress that effective arrangements bring, the sense of community in the office may even improve. 

(3)    Security: There are no limits to what can be achieved remotely as long as organisations ensure that the processes are in place to protect data, IP, and confidential information.

(4)    Process: It’s not just the arrangements that have to stay flexible. Employers and employees have to adapt over time; as circumstances change, arrangements evolve. Sustained engagement in this process will have a cumulative effect, creating a positive attitude towards flexible working across the business. 

(5)    Trust: Employees have to be persistent in driving their own careers and employers have to trust that in doing so they’re driving the organisation forwards. 

(6)    Team design: Concerns about cross-team collaboration arise when people mistake flexible working for lack of structure. As with any other system, flexibility requires testing, measurement, and ongoing communication between managers and employees. Employers should encourage pro-active questions about how flexible working will affect the rest of the team.

(7)    Clear deadlines, objectives & scheduling 
Employers should set clear objectives and KPI’s and establish a trial period with a clearly defined sense of how they will measure the success of flexible working arrangements at the end of that period. Employees should ask for feedback and milestone reviews. 

(8)    Set boundaries
Employees may need to pay particular attention to their own wellbeing and avoid misusing technology to over-compensate for time spent away from the office.

(9)    Fair workload volume: Employers have to ensure that workers don’t feel pressured to compensate for days working from home. If workers are cramming five days into four, focus and engagement will suffer. 

(10)    Encourage mentorship: Supporting a working mother who has flexible hours creates a long-term resource. Those employers which support flexible working arrangements will develop a dedicated, loyal and organised core of agile workers, from whom new employees can seek help.

Employees joining the work-force now prioritise work-life balance far more than previous generations. Organisations which take creating and sustaining a flex-culture seriously are far more likely to attract and retain talent. Focusing the energy of the business on making flexible working work is a win-win; in reducing burn-out and absenteeism and boosting productivity it’s good for employers and employees alike. 

Released On 11th Feb 2020


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