Four key tips to make flexible working arrangements succeed

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Organisations are increasingly under pressure to help improve work/life balance for their employees. Following the introduction of the flexible working legislation in the UK that came into place two years ago, a number of businesses are starting to realise the benefits of offering flexible working options. Benefits include happier, and ultimately more productive employees. While younger members of a team may prioritise better work-life balance, more experienced employees might be driven by flexibility to accommodate family responsibilities.

Recent statistics have clearly demonstrated the benefits that flexible working can bring to an organisation, and their employees. According to the Institute of Leadership and Management, 84% of managers who have implemented flexible working schedules in the UK have seen improvements in productivity, commitment and retention of staff. Consulting firm Accenture surveyed its employees and 80% of respondents stated their flexible work benefit made them more likely to stay with the company.

For the employee, 79% of employees would like to work from home and 36% would choose a work-from-home option over a pay raise. A happier employee makes for a more engaged and productive workforce.

Attract and retain a productive workforce

The benefits of flexible working extend beyond the engagement of employees. Businesses are having to contend with an increasing skills gap, lack of local workforce, increasing travel expenses and expensive office space. Business can use flexible working tools, such as video and collaborations applications, to unify the workforce more cost efficiently. Global Workplace Analytics (GWA) says that allowing employees to telecommute even half the time would save companies at least £7,000 per employee per year. Flexible working is an easy and effective way to please employees.

If flexibility can have this impact on both staff loyalty and the bottom line, it’s certainly an issue to be prioritised at the board level.

Flexible working may keep staff engaged and boost productivity. The challenge with adoption however is more cultural than technological. To address the misconception that working from home is less productive than office-based work, organisations should foster a culture where people are valued for the work and outcomes they produce, rather than the amount of time they spend at their desk. Management can play a key role in creating an environment where flexible working can thrive. A culture that values performance and output will surely reap the full benefits of flexible working.

Top tips to make flexible arrangements work

A recent report has predicted that flexible working will be the main way of working for 70 per cent of organisations by 2020. To remain competitive and attractive to millennials who will make up half the global workforce by 2020 and expect flexible working, businesses need to consider this way of working. For those that are sceptical about the effectiveness of a remote workforce or are not sure how to get started, beginning on a small scale can be a great opportunity to test the waters. Here are some guidelines that organisations can introduce to support employees working from home:

1. Communicate your flexible working policy to all employees

A study by telecommunications group O2 found that while three-quarters of polled employers believed they encouraged flexible working, only one-fifth of polled employees agreed. Flexible working is only successful when employees feel they are encouraged to do so. Make sure you’re clear with your employees about their options.

2. Create a productive work from home environment

However tempting it is to work in pyjamas, employees must designate an area of the home that is a work area and maintain a professional environment – no distractions allowed. By recreating the office environment at home, employees can be more productive and less likely to become sidetracked by home comforts and chores. Constant distractions and the feeling that you’re not really at work will have a detrimental impact on productivity.

3. Stay connected with your team

Working from home can be quite isolating, so it is important not to let 'out of sight, out of mind' become an excuse. Check in frequently with your team and stay connected with colleagues in the office using instant messaging and video conferencing solutions. For example, one of our customers, Evolution Gaming, uses our solutions to keep its dispersed workforce of 250 employees throughout Europe connected at all times. They are able to collaborate quickly and easily, despite their location.

Establish expectations and guidelines from the outset. These should involve principles around clocking in and out, attending meetings, and submitting work.

4. Access to technology

It is paramount that you have access to sufficient Internet connection before committing to working from home. High-speed Internet makes communication easy.

Gone are the days of the 9-5 working week. The office has suddenly become an idea more than a physical location. If organisations adopt cloud-based video conferencing technology, there is no reason that an at-home worker can’t have the same productive, face-to-face experience, as if they were in the office.

Accommodating the changing needs and expectations of an evolving workforce means a greater focus on organisational culture and how it enables employees to stay connected and communicate, regardless of location.

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