Flexible working policies are no longer a perk, but a must-have for organisations hoping to attract talented candidates. Pre-pandemic, 27 per cent of UK workers had a flexible working arrangement, most often in the form of flexitime, remote working or reduced hours. Just one-third of those with a flexible working arrangement worked at home – a figure that’s hard to comprehend after a majority of office-based workers have had no choice but to spend the past year working remotely.
Employees have now had a taste of freedom – a chance to break free of the 9 to 5 mould and take control of their own working patterns. That’s not to say that staff don’t see the value of the office environment, but rather they long for the autonomy to decide on what working environment is best for them. And, as 2020 has proven, a remote workforce can be a productive and engaged one, when managed effectively.
So, where should you begin?
Establish a level of trust
Giving your employees as much autonomy as possible may feel counterinitiative at first, but it’s a sure-fire way to boost morale and productivity. If you’ve only recently introduced flexible working, your staff will know that it’s a privilege which could be taken away at a moment’s notice. Time shouldn’t be wasted on concerns over slotting in medical appointments or childcare responsibilities, and instead should be accounted for within each individual’s flexible working arrangement, enabling them to fit their job around their personal commitments.
Set realistic expectations
Rewind the clock a decade or two, and typically the most loyal, hard-working employees were the ones who arrived early and finished late. Now, times have changed – and it’s more widely accepted that quality should be valued over quantity. When an employer prioritises their employees’ work-life-balance and commits to supporting their wellbeing, they are not only left with a healthier, happier workforce but a higher-performing one too.
Recognise individuals’ differences
Flexible working was once associated with working mothers, usually upon their return to work. But it’s not just parents that have personal responsibilities, and flexible working doesn’t necessarily mean part-time. Flexitime may benefit someone looking to make the most of their spikes in productivity, whereas fixed, staggered hours could create the perfect balance of stability and flexibility for someone whose schedule changes infrequently.
Leaders must recognise the value of collaboration, drawing on the innovation that can be harnessed by adopting a collective mindset which is driven by the organisation’s core objectives. While employees may be miles apart, they should feel connected to their colleagues and supported by the company as a whole – as well as able to identify how their own unique talents feed into an over-arching goal.
Invest in the right tech
Technology has truly been a saviour during the pandemic, enabling millions of people across the globe to continue working remotely. Without it, the most resilient, agile organisations wouldn’t be where they are today, and cross-collaboration between teams would be a near impossible feat. Cloud computing and video-conferencing tools have laid a strong foundation for businesses to build on, adapting available technologies to meet their own unique requirements. Determine what works best for your business, and you may just be surprised by the return on investment.
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