In the year we swapped boardrooms for board game-strewn living rooms, it’s easy to predict that the future is remote. At least for the coming months, if not beyond.
For many, it’s just the setting that’s changed – with morning check-ins, daily team meetings, and company-wide weekly round-ups not only plugging that communication gap, but firmly entrenching us in the world of 9-5 working hours. But will flexible remote working be the next shift that organisations see?
Going remote may feel like change enough, but the trend for bundling in flexible work hours is clear to see. With 47% of UK organisations offering flexible full-time hours, businesses like Standard Chartered are leading the way, with their 75,000 employees now allowed to choose not just their preferred location, but the hours and even days they work too.
100,000 of Unlever’s workforce have the same deal too, which means the options are out there for your current and prospective employees – so you should start thinking about it too.
It may seem like a step too far – a relinquishing of traditional working expectations that managers and leaders find comfort in, an admittance that presenteeism is (or should be) a thing of the past. But like it or not, flexible working is something that employees are increasingly expecting to see:
Legally, your staff can ask to work flexibly – though it’s up to you whether you grant their request. But let’s be clear: what does flexible working actually look like, and what are your options?
Every organisation is different, so every approach to flexible working hours – from full freedom to no movement on business hours – will need careful consideration. Make sure you understand the benefits and challenges before you make your decision.
Studies suggest that flexible working can boost productivity by 30%, with 90% of managers stating the standard of their flexibly working employees improved or stayed the same. But why? Every ‘night owl’ and ‘morning person’ knows that there are certain times they produce their best work, and times where they… struggle. Flexible hours solves that issue.
Stands to reason, given the boost in productivity, that profits and growth would follow. Factor in reduced costs from unnecessary absences and improved retention, and flexible working policies just seem to make business sense.
It goes without saying: life is complicated. For parents, carers, those with differing abilities, or really anyone with responsibilities they have to balance with their working life, flexible remote work offers a way to make life easier. And it’s more than that: it can make inclusion and equity a reality, for those traditionally left out due to difficulties with working expectations.
Not only do flexible working policies mean you can attract candidates from groups who can’t commit to a traditional 9-5 model, it also means you can look further afield. You can draw on expertise from people all over the world, with a range of different life experiences, and that can only be a good thing.
It can be hard enough finding a spot in someone’s calendar – but factoring in different working hours will complicate that further. It also means adding in last-minute emergency meetings isn’t really an option, which could cause serious issues.
Flexible working doesn’t have to be a free-for-all. If your organisation needs to have core working hours, great. If you need to designate a ‘meetings day’, go for it. But consider that this could also help cut back on unnecessary Zoom calls, and force you to have contingencies in place for when those emergency situations do come up.
It’s easy to get the wrong end of the stick, especially in a Slack message someone’s hurriedly pinged you at the end of their working day. And it can be hard to feel connected when your colleagues are on an opposite shift pattern – less relationship, more ships passing in the night.
Consider tools that let you record messages for your colleagues to view at their leisure – like video calls, but without the risk of accidentally speaking over each other when your connection cuts out. And make an effort to find time to chat occasionally, once a week or month, to keep that communication up.
Some managers might resist an even looser grip on who’s doing what, and when. And that’s understandable: self-accountability is a challenge at the best of times, but flexible hours and remote working make it even more difficult.
If your teams are truly, truly engaged then you can trust them to self-motivate. Doing well is a compulsion for engaged employees, and the knowledge of their worth to the organisation will keep them on track. And if that’s not enough? Then set weekly tasks they should aim to complete, and ask for a status update – not micromanaging, just checking in.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll continue saying it – the best thing you can do is start an honest conversation with your people. By listening to your people, you can find the departments and demographics that would benefit from flexible working hours, and know if you’re even communicating well enough to begin with.
Using our research-led question sets, change-driving platform, and advanced language analysis tech, you can listen better. Book a demo to see how it works.