Managing the challenges of flexibility
Are your staff working remotely or shirking remotely?
While flexible working provides benefits for staff and employers, effective communication is the key to making it a success in the workplace.
Flexible workplaces like Perpetual Guardian, with its four day working week, have become famous for improving staff lifestyle and productivity.
More than half of all Kiwis have flexibility in terms of when, how, or where they work – often from the comfort of their own home, in co-working spaces, or even cruising overseas.
However, there is a flipside to flexible working arrangements: challenges of flexible working need careful management to ensure staff wellbeing and productivity.
Trust and supervision
How do you know if staff are tuning into your teleconference and not Youtube? Are they keeping up with their deadlines or Keeping up with the Kardashians?
Trust and supervision is a challenge with remote workers. It’s hard to know whether your employee is doing the work, and doing it well, if you can’t just pop by their desk and check on their progress.
Working too long and too hard
For many flexible workers, the work-life juggle is a real struggle.
It is common for part time staff to work a fulltime job on a part time pay, while attempting to fulfil other personal responsibilities.
The ability to work from home at any time of the night, while juggling too many deadlines or personal commitments, can lead to chronic stress or burnout.
Negative impact on career
Would you consider promoting your flexible workers to partnership?
Staff may be concerned about the negative impact flexible working can have on their career.
Staff who are visibly absent from the office are less likely to be acknowledged for the good work that they do, and may be overlooked for promotions or partnerships.
Reasons for this may include lack of management support, reduced access to training opportunities, and unconscious biases.
So, how do you resolve these issues?
- Trial the flexible working arrangement first. Discuss trialling a flexible working arrangement for three months with your staff member before formalising a permanent arrangement. Check that your staff member demonstrates an ability to manage their workload without close supervision, before agreeing to a flexible working arrangement on an ongoing basis.
- Engage in frequent communication. Meet with your flexible workers regularly so they can ask for assistance and you can check on progress. If they work part time, choose the same time to meet every week. If they work remotely, communicate using technology, such as Skype, Zoom, and teleconferencing. Request that your remote worker attend work one day per week for meetings and collaboration with colleagues.
- Monitor workflow and times of work. Manage your flexible workers’ workload by keeping track of when and how much they are working. Ask your flexible workers to keep accurate time records of what they are working on and the amount of time spent. Provide guidelines around the hours that people are allowed to work, so they are not tempted to email at midnight.
- Be results focused. Rather than focusing on time spent in the office, reward staff for productivity or creativity. If you use a billing model, update it to a fixed fee system.
- Consider online training for flexible workers. Consider whether your flexible workers can access training opportunities. Are they struggling to attend because they are not onsite at the set times scheduled for training? Online training courses and webinars are useful, because they provide training that people can access from anywhere, at any time. This provides flexible workers equal opportunities for career progression and promotion.
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