The following article is authored by Vanessa Vanderhoek, founder of Flexible Working Day.
I’ve been an executive for many years in small to large companies and today, run my own business. I’m no stranger to the concept of flexible working. I work with organisations to create flexible working environments that meet their business objectives.
There are some challenges to working flexibly, but the rewards are high. A more engaged workforce, greater productivity and attracting and retaining talent.
Here are my keys to managing and motivating your flexible team.
Engagement | Is anybody out there?
One of the greatest complaints about flexible working arrangements is the lack of face time with employees - ensuring everyone feels part of the team. But as many leaders know, a present employee doesn’t necessarily equate to an engaged employee. Often, those who have taken the opportunity to negotiate flexible working arrangements, go above and beyond to check in with their team. They seek out information and value feedback.
Sure, it’s going to take some extra effort on your part to communicate with your flexible team members, but there’s a bunch of useful - and free - technology to help! Platforms like Slack or Office Skype are great at creating instant communication portals between individuals and groups and can focus on different topic areas. There’s even spaces that create the office idle chatter to help boost morale and relationships.
Platforms like Asana help coordinate projects and tasks. You’re able to assign them to individuals and set due dates.
Many offices are setup with video and phone conferencing facilities, that all your employees need are a phone, laptop, and internet connection. Considering Australia is one of the highest users of mobile devices in the world, it’s safe to say your employees are covered.
Productivity | It’s not just about bums on seats
As I’m writing this very article, my toddler daughter is being entertained by her loving dad and older siblings. I’m perched at the kitchen table in my pyjamas with a lukewarm, half-drunk coffee by my laptop. It’s 8am and a weekend. But an idea took hold and the working conditions were right so I took the opportunity that presented me. I’m likely to stay here for an hour or two solidly working. No distractions (unless World War Three descends and everyone is taken hostage).
Don’t be afraid to set tasks (within reason) and expect results from your flexibly employed team. You’ll be surprised how much they will deliver. In one study, Ernst & Young found that for every 71 women employed in flexible roles, an organisation gained a productivity bonus of one additional full time employee. *
You will more likely need to prioritise your time to ensure you’re not being a road block. The same study found that male employees wasted 19 per cent of their working time waiting for other people, while women wasted 15 per cent.
Re-arrange your work so you have time to answer questions or approve items when your team is available. Consider planning activities further in advanced than you’re used to. Part time employees may need additional lead-up to deliver tasks. This doesn’t mean they’re unproductive. It just means better facilitation of their time.
Culture | Sticks and stones will break my bones…
As a leader, you have a lot of sway. You can help turn negative opinions into positive ones. The more you encourage and lend your voice to, flexible working arrangements, the greater results you’ll see.
A study by Bain & Company and Chief Executive Women found that men were less likely to uptake flexible working arrangements because of a negative stigma associated with men taking time off to look after kids. *
This isn’t good enough. If society is to achieve gender equality, men should feel as empowered to work flexibly as women. And the message needs to not only be set from the top, it needs to be actively encouraged – ideally with loud speakers.
Review your organisations policies and consider how flexible working arrangements can benefit your team. Ensure you openly encourage your flexible employees. Speak against flexism and educate those who exhibit negativity.
Finally, celebrate Flexible Working Day. Invite a speaker to your organisation, or setup a discussion panel with some of your top performing flexible workers. Ensure your organisation know, flexible working is available to those who need it.