Julie Robinson, Impact's HR Manager shares her top tips on flexible working.
As organisations become more and more global there is increased expectation for employees to communicate with colleagues and clients on a 24/7 basis. As a consequence many leaders find themselves having to encourage better work-life balance by enabling workplace flexibility.
Flexible working - which used to be seen as a perk for certain individuals or for people with children/caring responsibilities - is now very common. For many employers, however, it brings new challenges - being another thing to manage, control and set expectations around. Flexible working can be fast, effective and high performing, but only if it is managed correctly and supported by good leadership.
At Impact flexibility, honesty and trust are core values of our culture and are evident in our working practices. Encouraging the right attitudes and behaviours helps us to embed a flexible working culture in a way that drives performance and benefits business. We work hard to get the balance right - creating a collaborative, collegiate atmosphere, where people come together to work on stuff and support each other, whilst allowing flexible working when required to respond to both personal and professional demands.
Here are our top tips.
Be clear about what your organisation means by flexible working.
At Impact we don’t mean ‘part time working’ or ‘working from home’. What we do mean is being mindful of the location and hours available. We view ‘work’ as something you do, rather than somewhere you go - and the focus has become more about output - what is produced - than about the hours worked and where it is carried out.
Set the cultural tone
Encourage your leaders to set the cultural tone and expectation for what ‘flexible’ means for your organisation and to ensure every person has the ability (where the role allows it) to work flexibly. Managers should be committed to supporting their team members to achieve their best performance, trusting them to work how, when and where they need to.
Talk about it
Why might an employee benefit from a different way of working? Will a flexible approach benefit all parties? Are there any concerns – a loss of team feeling/isolation? Risk of overworking/burn out? Missing out on those impromptu yet highly productive water-cooler chats? How can these concerns be overcome? What role can technology play in helping?
By consulting with people, managers can better understand how and why flexible working may - or may not - be right for individuals and for the business.
Set clear boundaries
Flexible working doesn’t mean working with no ground rules.
Setting clear boundaries early on helps to avoid conflict and confusion. You may want to agree a minimum number of hours physically spent in the office, or certain times when individuals must be online/contactable. Scheduling regular catch ups (in person and/or virtually) will help to keep you in the picture and offer to support where needed.
Flexible working is a complex issue, with no simple right or wrong decisions. Getting the balance right involves careful, sensitive and agile leadership. Get it right though, and your organisation will benefit from cost and time savings, increased ability to attract top talent on a global scale, reduced absenteeism and higher levels of engagement, creativity and innovation. Well worth being flexible for!