Chris Stappard, Managing Director at Edward Reed Recruitment, explains how employers can promote the health and wellbeing of their staff and attract the best talent by implementing flexible working policies.
Ten years ago, it was the norm for the typical worker to be present in the office from 9–5, five days a week. But tradition has since given way to innovation, with businesses introducing more employee-centric policies, like remote working, flexible start times, compressed working weeks, and accrued time off.
However, finance has been somewhat slower than other industries to adopt these flexible working arrangements. Even though 94% of staff in the sector report that it’s important to have control over where and when they work, just 36% employees currently work for companies where this is an option (TeleWare). Clearly, if employers want to remain competitive and safeguard the health and wellbeing of their staff, then they need to start offering what their employees want.
In his article, I’ll explain why you should consider implementing flexible working polices, along with some tips on how to do so in a way that maximises productivity and minimises disruption.
What are the benefits of introducing flexible working?
There are lots of different ways to make your workplace more flexible, and any practice that allows employees to organise their working days around their other commitments and lifestyles can be considered a ‘flexible’ policy. Popular strategies include allowing staff to choose when they start and finish work, or allowing them to work remotely on certain days. This will give your staff the freedom to adjust their working day to suit their personal schedules and goals — whether that’s making time for the school run, avoiding traffic jams, or just getting a seat on the Tube.
Flexible working arrangements offer a number of benefits for both staff and employers. For one, staff enjoy having the freedom to work from home or come in later or earlier, allowing them to skip or reduce costly and draining commutes. Employees are also often more motivated and better rested, which can help to increase satisfaction and retention rates and reduces the amount of leave taken because of stress-related disorders and burnout.
In terms of benefits for employers, flexible policies can increase productivity by reducing presenteeism and giving staff the opportunity to work when they’re most alert and focused. Uptake of remote working and hotdesking can allow employers to downsize their office spaces, saving on rent and utilities. Plus, as flexible working practices are increasingly becoming the new normal for many industries, it can help to make your company more competitive when it comes to recruiting the best talent, too. This is especially important if you want to attract millennials and the younger generation, who are more likely to seek roles with an element of flexibility.
Flexible working offers a lot of advantages, but your new policy will need to be planned, implemented, and monitored carefully in order to make sure it doesn’t have a negative impact on your bottom line. Here, I’ve shared what you need to do to successfully introduce flexible working into your business, in a way that’s going to be mutually beneficial for both you and your staff.
Work around your employee’s unique requirements
Employees are individuals with their own unique needs, so it’s essential to consult them first, and then work to accommodate their requirements as best as you can. For most businesses, this will mean asking employees what they’re interested in, and trying to find a way to accommodate their needs without compromising the quality of their work.
Anonymous surveys are a great way to gauge employee interest, as are interviews and check-ins during performance reviews. If you plan to offer more personalised flexible arrangements to suit individual employees, then be sure to ask each staff member to submit a detailed request stating exactly what sort of arrangements would be best for them.
Set clear rules and agree KPIs and workloads in advance
You’ll need to establish a clear process for how flexible working is going to work for your business, including clear boundaries and rules to ensure that your staff understand what’s expected from them, and when.
For instance, if you’re going to offer employees the chance to work remotely a few times a week, it’s a good idea to ask all employees to check in with their line manager by a certain time each day, and to ensure that they honour any commitments that might require them to be present in the office, like client or internal meetings. Or, if you’ll be introducing flexible start and finish times, make it clear that there’s still a certain number of required working hours each day.
In addition to making the terms of your policy very clear, it’s a good idea to set clear goals and KPIs for your staff. Depending on the nature of their roles, you could even assign specific tasks and to-do lists to complete during remote work, so they know exactly what their duties are, even without a manager being physically present to delegate tasks.
Use tech to facilitate productive remote working
There’s no doubt that advances in technology and equipment have helped to drive the flexible working revolution. Access to collaborative apps and software and better connectivity have allowed employees in almost all sectors to work anywhere, anytime, and made monitoring staff performance easier than ever. As a result, it’s now simpler than ever for staff to work from home.
However, if you’re going to implement a remote working policy, it’s essential that you’re using technology to your advantage, both in terms of facilitating productivity and communication, and monitoring staff performance. Remote messaging software, like Slack, can facilitate faster communication between teams and reduces the amount time employees need to spend answering emails.
You can also use remote time management software to monitor when staff are logging on and off. If you use employee monitoring software on staff equipment, this is also an effective way to keep track of what your staff are doing while they work from home on company devices.
Monitor the success of your new policy
Finally, it’s vital that you include a way to monitor the success of your new policy to ensure it’s not having a negative effect on staff performance. As I mentioned earlier, technology — like computer monitoring software — is a very helpful tool for measuring employee output. Likewise, be sure to take on feedback on how your policies are working out for your staff at their end. After all, they’re the ones with the best understanding of their own working habits and needs, so they might have some valuable suggestions on how they can become more productive.
If you’re still unsure about how workable a policy will be, or whether the effects will be sustainable, you can always start with a trial period initially. Then, if it’s a success, you can roll it out permanently.
Implementing flexible working can be a daunting prospect for employers, but given the benefits it can bring, businesses shouldn’t shy away from it. Take my tips on board when planning, implementing, and monitoring your flexible working arrangements, and you should be able to help your employees lead healthier, more balanced lives without effecting your bottom line.