With lockdown beginning to end, it might be tempting to expect that the world will return to normal. But in the post COVID-19 world, some changes are set to become the new norm. Amongst them is a new working reality, with businesses to create a long-term flexible work strategy.
Finding workable solutions in the face of coronavirus restrictions has required some outside-the-box thinking, with some businesses effectively forced to embrace the work-from-home model. The upshot is that the benefits of having a flexible work culture have now become clearer than ever.
But in order to harness the full benefits, businesses need to develop a new work strategy, one that strikes a balance between on-site and remote working practices, that can satisfy the government’s Return To Work Safely Protocol while not compromising productivity.
According to the latest pwc Pulse survey, 61% of Irish businesses are looking at making remote working a permanent option. But what are key aspects a successful flexible work strategy should include?
More Than One Option
First of all, the idea of flexible work incorporates more than just remote working, and each has its own advantages. Identifying the best one for your company depends on the specific needs your company has. In fact, a successful flexible work strategy may need to incorporate more than one type.
- Remote Working relates to employees who work entirely away from the office. Usually, it is applied to employees located in other cities, countries or even continents – so, more often than not, freelance personnel.
- Telecommuting relates to employees who split their time between the office and home. The frequency can vary, depending on their role and need to have them physically present in the office, so an agreed timetable is important.
- Flexi-Time relates to an agreed flexible work pattern for employees who are unable to work the normal 9-5 window. Often, this is down to personal or family commitments, but means flexibility over the number of days working in the office or perhaps the number of hours worked per day, where longer hours Monday to Thursday will allow a half-day Friday or even three-day weekend.
Key Aspects To Consider
Focus On Outcomes
Workplaces are focused mainly on procedures and processes; basically, upholding the concept that the means justifies the ends. But when employees work remotely, it’s best to switch focus to the ends justifying the means. Set clear KPIs so employees know the level of performance that is expected. This is help ensure targets are met.
Set Clear Outcomes
One negative to working from outside the office is the risk of distraction. If employees are working from home, then can they avoid morning TV, will they work at the same time as everyone else or work later? To avoid this problem, it’s important to set clear outcomes, with deadlines that are unambiguous and achievable. Also, make communication as easy as possible to boost collaboration. Consider using video conference apps, live chat platforms, and file-sharing software, a good Document Management solution will help.
Promote Accountability & Responsibility
The greatest fear for employers is that employees will take advantage of the new flexible practices. To counter this, it’s necessary to promote a culture of personal accountability and responsibility. To do this, tasks and targets should be clearly defined (see above) so as to ensure each employee can apply themselves fully in what is expected of them. Knowing they are accountable for the results helps to motivate while highlighting the important part their work has to the overall team effort promotes a sense of responsibility.
Know Your Personnel
Like all cultures, a flexible work culture depends heavily on the type of people involved. The workplace brings many different personality types together, and those who are self-motivated can thrive away from the office. This creates a genuine challenge in finding the right balance, but as long as the strategy is fair to everyone, sets targets equally and addresses employees’ best working situations, it can work well.
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