Flexible working policies in the UK are fast becoming very popular, with adaptable hours and home working, more the 50% of businesses are likely to adopt these workplace guidelines by the end of 2017. This is according to new findings from a Citrix-commissioned report by The Work Foundation at Lancaster University, published in February 2016.
This study also predicted that a staggering 70% of businesses will have implemented flexible working schemes by 2020, heralding the end of working norms like the nine-to-five shift which were once considered the staple of office life.
How can you prepare for a new flexible working policy?
With these transformations fast approaching, the question is: how will SME owners be affected? To enable flexible working for your employees, it is essential that you prepare your business to cope with the changes.
The director of research at The Work Foundation, Professor Geraint Johnes, says: “One of the biggest challenges for small businesses is to learn how to manage the activities of their mobile workers. Getting people together to collaborate requires making arrangements in advance and deciding on a software platform (Skype, for example) on which meetings can take place.
“This change in routine may be daunting, but the ability not to be restricted by space opens up all sorts of possibilities for collaboration – both with people inside the firm and those outside.”
As well as coordinating plans for the move to a flexible working policy, you will also need to consider what to do when you start the new routine. There are various tools and applications to explore that will help to measure productivity from you employees, whilst also affording them the freedom of working from home.
How do you know if flexible working is right for your business?
The possibilities of flexible working puts less importance on the physical aspect of the office workspace. Paul Dunne is the UK and Ireland manager of Plantronics, an electronics company who produce and deliver audio communications equipment, and has seen a rise in the need for virtual meetings in previous years.
Dunne says that: “With flexible working you could do away with the office altogether or, at the very least, reduce bricks and mortar considerably. From an employee’s point of view, they’re able to work from a comfortable environment with little or no distractions, increasing both productivity and morale.”
Gary Turner, co-founder and UK managing director of Xero, agrees that flexible working can be much more suitable to today’s workers: “The modern workforce is far less interested in a dedicated desk or chair set-up at the office, so as long as your employees are all invested, mobile working can transform a business.”
Despite this, there is a worry that chances for the workforce to bond and work together will be reduced with the introduction of flexible working. To prepare for this eventuality Professor Johne suggests specifically making time for team bonding: “Water cooler conversations may decline, so opportunities for workers to meet together virtually, outside of the pressure cooker, need to be built into the timetable.”
How productive and secure is remote working?
So if you’re considering moving your workforce to a more flexible policy, how will you measure productivity and engagement in your employees when they are removed from the office environment?
Turner recommends the use of mobile applications to keep track: “Mobile apps can boost your business to get the most from employees wherever they are. Google Hangouts enables ad-hoc 1:1 video conversations and larger group meetings of up to 25 participants with chat-group features.
“Also, project management tools such as Basecamp and smart inbox management can help you manage your tasks, and cloud software enables teams to collaborate remotely on shared documents via software such as Google Drive, saving valuable time.”
If you’re concerned about matters of security with remote working, a home workplace can be easily equipped to deliver everything your staff need to work away from the office. Safely backup documents and data with the use of portable hard drives and USBs. And as an extra security precaution, use privacy filters on your screen to keep the remote working environment protected.
With so many modern developments taking place in the today’s work spaces, it is essential to be prepared for all eventualities. Flexible working, although a daunting prospect to organise, is widely considered to be extremely beneficial to productivity. And with a world of technology to help you work around any changes, your company will soon be reaping the rewards of the home-working revolution.