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Workplace flexibility is defined by how you, as an organisation, can help your employees in maintaining a healthy work life balance and maintain their productivity without requiring a fixed working schedule or workspace. While flexible working arrangements require effort and trust from both employees and employers, it has shown tremendous benefits, especially during Covid-19.
There are plenty of advantages to offering flexible working arrangements for your employees, starting from it being a deciding factor in a potential hire accepting an offer from you. While 77% of employees say a flexible work arrangement would be a major factor in whether they take a job or not, it can still be a challenge to embrace these new, less rigid agreements with your employees.
Here are a few ways to start embracing flexible working arrangements:
There are many options for virtual conferencing and meetings now available to employers and employees. These are actually far superior to simple phone calls, namely because 65% of communication is actually non-verbal. Things like facial expressions, hand gestures, and more make up more than half of our communications today. Using virtual conferencing will allow you to communicate more effectively with your remote or partially remote employees. It also reduces the feelings of isolation that can come from remote work. Many are still working remotely and isolation can be a cause of loneliness and depression. These virtual meetings can help in reducing these feelings with your employees and build a connection even when socially distanced.
The biggest challenge many employers have with flexible work arrangements is the communication of expectations. When you are able to set expectations clearly and maintain good communication with employees as they work, the arrangement will soon seem totally normal. For quick questions and casual conversations, resources like Slack offer an excellent form of communication, while email can still be used for a list of inquiries or more serious conversations. The most important thing is making sure all your employees have the proper training, technology, and collaboration tools they need to remain connected and be productive, no matter where they are.
If your employees know the set times for meetings, they will be able to organise their day, whether that’s answering emails, finishing projects, or wrapping up calls, in time to attend a virtual meeting without distractions. It’s also a good idea to set an expectation with your employees about a time limit for the meeting. If they know how much time to set aside, they can coordinate so they aren’t interrupted during the meeting. As you would with a face-to-face meeting, plan ahead and stay efficient and effective.
Setting expectations and giving feedback go hand-in-hand. Without clear expectations established before you start flexible work arrangements, there can be miscommunication and frustration on both sides. Giving clear expectations and guidelines will help you and your employee stay accountable to the business. You should also make an effort to allow the employee to be involved in the goal setting process. As you continue working together in a more flexible way, give consistent, frequent feedback. Consistent and structured one-on-one conversations will help to clarify the objections, track progress, and provide your employee the guidance to continue working in a flexible arrangement.
This can be the hardest thing for managers to do, especially if they are used to more traditional work arrangements. Flexible working arrangements require the trust of both parties. You will need to maintain this trust. One way to do this is by focusing on results, rather than the time your employee is spent doing work. If they are fully trained and qualified for their job and know they have your trust, they will perform beyond your expectations. Giving regular praise and encouragement can also help keep them motivated and excited about work.
Every employee is different. Everyone has a different working style and part of flexible arrangements is managing these different styles and personalities. Even for those employees with whom you have a flexible working arrangement, have an HR team on hand and fully trained to help them with any questions and concerns they might have. Flexible work presents different challenges than traditional arrangements and your HR team should be aware of the best practices to help your employees.
Even if you aren’t all physically together, having a community in your workforce matters. Applications like Google Hangouts can allow for “co-working” and engagement. Those office water cooler talks are tricky when there is no longer an office cooler to congregate at, but they are important for cultivating unity within your employees. Remote work and flexible working can get lonely. Having those connections can reduce the feelings of loneliness. Consider having a virtual office party or hangout - activities like these can help all your workers feel included and connected.
Remember to keep an open mind about flexible work. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies into these types of arrangements and the transition can be bumpy. However, if implemented well, your employees will be more satisfied and happier, even when they aren’t physically coming to work. Your leadership will pave the way for the change; remember, it starts at the top.
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