Five things your business can do to Up Your Flex Appeal
Up your flex appeal! It’s a rallying cry from many an Insta Influencer, initiatives such as Work That Works and Flex Appeal are gaining traction and in response to such campaigns knocking at Parliament’s door the Government have now launched a flexible-working task force.
With the freedom of location and time that all of this super-duper technology now affords us flexible working should be a no-brainer, the rule rather than the exception and yet it is a concept that is still trying to truly find its feet in the UK.
There is evidence that suggests employers who get this right and put in the time and effort to support flexible working models boost productivity and motivation. But a recent survey by Deloitte with Timewise, a recruitment consultancy specialising in part-time work, suggests that many perhaps are merely still paying lip service to the needs of their flexible employees. With hours carrying more kudos than output 30% of flexible workers felt they were regarded as less important, 25% felt they missed out on promotion and given fewer opportunities than those working conventional hours.
So how do you make the most of all the good stuff that supporting flexible working can deliver for your business? Here are five principles that will help you get it right
Make it about what gets done not how many hours are spent doing it
I used to work in an office where it was the norm for people to leave jackets on the back of their chair as a signal to everyone else that they were still hard at work and in the office. Truth was many of them were already in the pub but the perception was that they were grafting away and they were applauded for it.
Fast forward a few years, one baby later and I was working through lunch breaks and avoiding all water cooler chat in order to fit 5 days work into 3. And yet the comments were never about how much I’d achieved or how efficient and productive I was but about the days I wasn’t there, or the time I was leaving.
If you can identify what matters to you in terms of output as a business, define what needs to be achieved on a daily, weekly or monthly basis to drive your business forward then the focus can be on that and the responsibility of how and when it gets done is then down to the individual.
Develop a trust culture
Flexible working cannot work without trust. Many business owners struggle with remote working as they cannot see what is going on and judge input accurately. The dreaded “working from home” (and yes those are air quotes) phrase conjures up images of piles of washing and Jeremy Kyle being prioritised ahead of company business and on your time.
And yet if you truly trust your employees to manage their time, deliver the goods and be available to communicate when needed then you’ll get the best out of them as reward for that belief and autonomy. In fact ironically, most people work longer and harder when working remotely in order to prove they take the work just as seriously when out of office.
Invest in unity
With agile working models comes some sense of fragmentation, particularly if flexible working team members are working along side full time staff. By investing in ways to create respect, understanding and unity regardless of hours worked or location you will reap the rewards in terms of collaboration, communication and camaraderie. Regular team meetings, open communication, clear processes and an inclusive social strategy can all help.
Having a strong company culture will also unite everyone. Does everyone understand the vision for the business? The purpose? The values? By ensuring everyone is on the same page here you can ensure that every employee is putting their efforts towards the shared goals no matter how many hours they work or where from. My favourite illustration of this is the (probably urban myth) story of when a janitor was stopped at NASA and asked what his job was. To which he replied “I help put men on the moon’.
When it comes to creating this sense of unity technology really can be your best friend. It also promotes truly efficient flexible working. By setting up an infrastructure that enables teams to work effectively wherever they are and and whichever working patterns or time zones they are in, you can create an amazingly powerful ecosystem that serves to make everyone feel needed and part of the team. Email, Skype or Zoom and video conferencing are just the start of it. Platforms like Slack, Jive and Yammer can all facilitate better communication and collaboration as well as building in social tools such as liking and sharing. And with tools like Trello, teams can work on the same projects remotely without ever dropping a ball.
Out of sight should not mean out of mind
What is your reward and appraisal strategy for your flexible team members? Do those who work remotely or part time get the same opportunity to receive feedback or passing positive comments as those in the office? It’s an easy trap to fall into when you can’t see someone all of the time that communication becomes about what needs doing next or what’s gone wrong. Consciously remembering to feedback and motivate your flexible employees will pay dividends.
Bio – Emma Jefferys
Emma is our That Works For Me Business Coach. Having spent over 20 years devising marketing and growth strategies for big brands Emma then became a Professional Coach and Licensed Practitioner of NLP so that she can now help the business owners grow as much as their business. She says ‘so many business owners are so entrenched in the business that they find it hard to step out to work on it. My role as coach is to hold that space for them, to get them to see their business with fresh eyes, to revaluate where they are against their goals, to understand where there are blocks, to re-energise and importantly to create strategies and action that result in meaningful change’’. Emma’s direct yet warm approach means she’s fun to do business with but won’t let you off the hook – accountability is everything!