Author: Sanj Mahal, CEO, AndCo
13 Sep 2018
Driven by technological developments that enable people to work away from the office, and by the demands of an agile workforce increasingly searching for a better work-life balance, working patterns are becoming increasingly flexible across European cities. In fact, over 50 per cent of workers in Europe now report that they work away from their main office for two days a week or more, with a quarter of these employees carrying out this remote work from other cities.
Ensuring that employees have a productive environment to work in is a major consideration when shaping a flexible working policy
With these ever-evolving working patterns, creating and implementing an effective flexible working policy has become a significant challenge for many leaders. Understanding how to manage a digital workforce effectively and ensuring that the uptake of remote working doesn’t negatively impact productivity are other key considerations for many leaders. So how can employers effectively manage a flexible workforce across borders?
Identify suitable locations
In response to the growing number of remote workers, a variety of flexible working spaces have appeared across European cities. From free, communal spaces – like laptop-friendly cafes – to paid subscription co-working services that provide hot-spacing areas and meeting rooms, there are now plenty of options for remote workers.
As a manager, ensuring that employees have a productive environment to work in is also a major consideration when shaping a flexible working policy. However, there are plenty of services, including Workfrom and Desks Near Me, that collate flexible working options on a global scale. These platforms let you view the results on a map, read reviews and find different types of spaces to rent on demand. Making sure that flexible workers have productive environments to work in is crucial for the success of any flexible working policy, providing employees with subscriptions to affordable co-working spaces can be a very effective solution.
Introduce clear policies
Technology has been a fantastic enabler in the rise of flexible working. However, the same technology which facilitates instant digital connectivity to colleagues and clients is also contributing to a growing sense of anxiety for workers. With employees able to work anywhere at any time, companies need to establish clear policies when it comes to mobile device usage, to ensure that flexible workers aren’t consistently working longer hours than are required.
It is important to manage expectations regarding appropriate email response times, especially during the night, on weekends and during holidays. Equally, with smart devices sometimes acting as a distraction from productivity, ensuring that all employees understand the company’s expectations is vital.
Another common concern regarding managing a flexible workforce is that tracking employees’ progress on specific tasks and projects remotely will be more difficult. To remedy this, ensure your team is confident using collaborative tools such as Trello or Google Docs to stay synchronised with colleagues, whether they are in the office or working remotely.
These tools can also provide leaders with oversight of their employees’ progress on a specific task and indicate to team members which actions need to be prioritised. They can also be helpful in identifying backlogs, can be used to schedule upcoming projects, and are useful for leaders who want to ensure that their employees feel integrated.
Establishing a culture of support and trust are also key to the success of a flexible working policy. Often employees can display hesitancy towards adopting flexible working practices without support and encouragement from senior employees within their company. To combat this, employers need to make sure that flexible working policies are clear, concise and implemented from the top-down as employees are more likely to buy into flexible working if their managers embrace the concept wholeheartedly.
Flexible workers should also be given clear objectives from the start. Scheduling regular catch-ups in the day to check progress is a good way to manage the transition to flexible working, and also helps to ensure that productivity is maintained.
Use technology to support productivity
Communications solutions have developed at pace over the last few decades, and there are a variety of instant messaging apps, emails and video calling tools that can help managers maintain contact with employees. Screen sharing using web conferencing platforms can also be highly beneficial in helping to keep flexible workforces engaged. Furthermore, web-based file sharing solutions like Google Drive, Dropbox and Box allow you to securely access key documents when working remotely, and can facilitate more efficient collaborative projects.
Flexible working provides an opportunity for businesses to optimise productivity and improve the work-life balance of employees. However, being prepared and having the tools and policies in place to implement flexible working is important so that you can manage a growing number of workers away from the office, while maintaining a satisfied and efficient workforce.