How to make flexible working fit with your business needs

The benefits of working remotely are increasingly apparent but is it the right move for every organisation?

The rise of flexible working is nothing short of a modern phenomenon. Technology – namely smartphones, laptops, and 4G connectivity – has transformed today’s average workplace by enabling greater mobility and flexibility than ever before. The days of shackling employees to a single desk between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm appear to be numbered, and for good reason.

Many experts agree that working flexibly holds huge potential for businesses looking to drive higher levels of performance and productivity – and employers are clearly acting on this knowledge. A recent global study of 2,000 employees and managers led by Future Workplace and Virgin Pulse found that one-third of people now work remotely on a regular basis. In fact, so many workers now work flexibly that the total number of remote workers has increased by 115% over the past decade.

However, for companies that have yet to establish their own flexible working policies, there are naturally a number of questions (and perhaps doubts) about doing so. As with any new initiative the first step is to understand the impact that trying a new working pattern could have for both the business and the people who keep it running.

Establishing a clear policy

Clarity is key for businesses looking to embed working from home as part of their culture. In addition to natural discussion in a company or one-to-one meetings, written protocol removes any confusion among existing staff by laying out the terms in black and white. For new recruits, the option (or requirement) to work from home should be first clarified as part of the onboarding process.

It’s also essential to have a strong digital infrastructure in place. Online file storage systems like OneDrive and Google Drive allow employees to easily collaborate, share documents and synchronise their work in real time. And whilst lack of face-to-face contact can be an issue given the nature of some roles, modern technology certainly allows for ease of communication in multiple ways – whether that’s sending a quick message on cloud-based messengers such as Slack or arranging a formal Skype meeting.

Of course, the exact terms of the policy must vary from business to business; but only by formalising and promoting flexible working as a company benefit can employers begin to reap the associated gains in engagement, retention, and productivity. That much is true for all.

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