In a series of posts called “Mobilize!” I have been writing about flex work. Working with companies who develop their own workplaces and work arrangements, we have learned some valuable lessons on flex work that we can share with you. In this fourth blog on flex work, I will outline how to make flexibility work for you.
Workers and supervisors usually agree upon flexible work arrangements in advance, often based on guidelines provided by Human Resources. Before you start sending people to work from home and outside the office, here are some steps and tips to consider when designing your work policies:
- Devise a flex work strategy and policy. Define what flex work is and what it is not. The case and aim for the strategy should be clear to everyone, as well as the rules by which to play. Define who flex work is for and why, what type of flex arrangements can be offered, and what the process and structures are for implementing them.
- Determine employee and team readiness for flexwork. Not everyone can be a flexible worker. There are many reasons why flexible arrangements are not for everyone. Processing sensitive information, job induction periods or challenges with self-management can be reasons to require some staff to come to the office. Consider how well individual employees have demonstrated the skills and work habits that lead to a successful flex work, but also assess how well the rest of the team will function when an employee begins to work flexibly. Flex work arrangements should not become perks and blanket solutions for all your people “in the name of equality.”
- Do a trial run. Before carving anything in stone, make clear that your new program works and indicates to do what it is intended to do. You may proceed in small steps, trying one new arrangement at a time, restricting the trial to a month or two, or just one team or department.
- Ensure the technological enablers and take care of security issues. A pre-requisite for flexible working is that tools and connections work seamlessly, and that working conditions are at an acceptable level, promoting both cyber security and productivity.
- Provide memberships in flex spaces. Shared office space concepts, business hubs, satellite offices, workspace-as-a-service and coworking spaces can offer alternative, professional working environments closer to where people live. These are on offer at reasonable rates, and often include services, amenities and shared resources with little commitments. Exposing your staff to networks outside your own office from time to time may bring in new ideas, connections and business.
- Make team agreements and raise communication to a new level. Make sure everyone within the team and organization understands the new rules of work. We need to know how and when to connect with colleagues, and what channels to use. Make it a priority for managers and all self-managing team members to stay connected to their colleagues on a daily basis.
- Train managers to coach and lead flex workers. Middle managers often fear they will lose control if they cannot observe people working at their desks. Help them change their management style towards coaching and asking questions, being available through a variety of communication methods — phone, email, instant messaging, and so on. Make sure they schedule regular team meetings, phone meetings, or face-to-face meetings so that no team member feels left out.
- Set and track performance KPI’s. As you transition from managing presence to leading by targets and results, it is advisable to formulate some metrics for tracking productivity for each individual as well as the whole team. Make sure the new targets, expectations, job descriptions and responsibilities are clear to everyone. Check out this blog series' part 2, where the business case for flex work is discussed.
- Measure space utilization and work activities. Keep your office functional, relevant and attractive for your people so they keep coming back for those all-important encounters. Ensure your office space can support essential work activities such as collaboration in a cost efficient way. Use measurement data for fact-based design and decision-making. Check out part 3 of this series, where measuring the impacts of flex work is discussed.
In sum, and at the risk of repeating myself, remember you can measure the biggest benefits of flex work in the happiness and well-being of the workforce and its implications on productivity. Workplace strategies are important for retention, employee satisfaction and even success! If one of your goals is to have a happier, more productive, and healthier workforce, creating a flex work program that suits your company’s needs maybe just the ticket. And it might just save you on real estate costs, too!
Mobilize! Set up your own flex work program!
Are you considering flexible work arrangements for your company, or perhaps re-evaluating your flex work policy? In this four part blog series, Pontus Kihlman, Executive Consultant at Rapal Oy, delves a little deeper into the concept of flexible work as well as its pros and cons, and shares tips on how to develop your own flex work program. This post is the fourth and final part in the series. Be sure to read the previous posts, too.
- Part 1: Flexible work - what it is (not)
- Part 2: Making a case for flexible work
- Part 3: Measure the impacts of flex work