A Win-Win Environment
INNOVATE OR BE DISRUPTED
Innovation is not just about product and process – it is also about attracting and retaining the best people – and flexibility and virtual offices are just part of the story. The Chief Innovation Officer’s charter is to thread innovative process through the entire company – to challenge each division to step into the future and to pre-empt change, rather than wait to be disrupted. Disruption in the HR space can be very costly.
There is a groundswell of discontent among employees with the level of inflexibility in the workplace. What we mean by flexibility is enabling people to work non-scheduled hours from remote locations including home and cafes with varying levels of supervision.
A recent study from Ernest and Young* reveals that women working part-time are the most productive employees in the workplace, highlighting the growing need for Australian businesses to adopt a flexible workplace policy.
The desire to integrate life and business in less traditional ways is neither gender nor generational specific. It is very much a whole of workforce issue.
The concept of a flexible workplace is no longer a soft touch approach, but a serious and compelling strategy for business leaders to attract the best candidates who will achieve optimum productivity.
More and more companies have recognised the benefits of being innovative in this space and others are still watching this space.
“In Sweden, workers are being treated to a condensed six-hour work day. Businesses implementing this change hope that by giving their employees more time to spend with their families, they’ll be more productive when they’re at work”.**
Research suggests that flexibility in the workplace brings these positive outcomes:
- Increased productivity;
- Lower stress;
- Boost morale & motivation;
- A sense of being trusted to do the right thing;
- More/better sleep;
- Reduced commuting time;
- Able to attend key family events (including doctor & school visits);
- Attract better employees;
- Increase employee retention;
- Less absenteeism;
- No office related interruptions (up to 3hrs per day!); and
- Happier – more creative, better ideation, improved problem solving.
If these outcomes are related to being flexible, then, would an inflexible workplace have the opposite impact? Not a good look!
THE IMPLEMENTATION PLAN
There will be some businesses, divisions, jobs and people which may not be candidates for a flexible workplace. Each instance must be carefully considered. The extent of flexibility implemented must be customised – one size cannot suit all.
Start with being clear on what your working environment will need to look like in the future – say 3, 6, 9 years out – so that you attract and retain high performing, high value people – to be the employer of choice for those you need.
Once you have clarity around what the future workplace will look like, reverse engineer back – how do you bridge the gap between where you are now and where you need to be. How will you stage the introduction of flexibility and its constant companion, technology?
There are critical issues that must be considered when introducing flexibility, two of which include
- Don’t go in half done – know why you are taking this road, have an implementation plan, nominate a champion, and engage the team; and
- Beware the out of sight out of mind dilemma. Be very clear what you must do so as not to slip into this mindset. Rigorous 2-way communication is critical for engagement.
MANAGEMENT STYLE MATTERS
How a flexible workplace plays out often depends on the current management style. Inherent in the flexible model is an underlying trust that each person is capable of working without close supervision, managing their time, making decisions and doing the right thing (to varying degrees of course). If the current leadership tends to micromanage then there will need to be an adjustment – a loosening of the reigns. This must be dealt with upfront.
There are as many processes as there are businesses – from inflexible flexibility to a total lack of supervision or interaction. Larry Dobrow tells of one entrepreneur who keeps a watchful eye on his three virtual assistants throughout the day by monitoring their activity via Time Doctors screen monitoring software. Every 15 minutes the software takes a screen shot which reveals what employees are focused on! That is one end of the spectrum! Let’s hope the employees know that their screens are being monitored!
A CHECKLIST TOOL
We have developed a checklist or self-assessment for organisations considering introducing more flexibility or who have already stepped into that space with varying degrees of success.
This checklist highlights gaps in the planning and implementation processes – it is by no means all-inclusive – more considerations and insights will come to light as more businesses take up the challenge.
Try it now – it’s Free.
* Global Generations – A global study on work-life challenges across generations, Ernst & Young, 2015, available online here.
** Why flexible working will make you happier and healthier, Sabrina-Rogers Anderson, 2015, available online here.