Flexible working: 3 top tips on how to introduce a new way of thinking

Ben Kiziltug, Country Manager UK & International Lead, Personio, considers how businesses can better accommodate flexible working after social distancing

We’re in the midst of the biggest remote-working experiment in history. Flexible hours, part-time work and remote working have all been enforced by businesses trying to adhere to social distancing measures. And whilst there’s no one-size-fits-all flexible working policy for businesses, all sectors have been forced to rethink the way they work.

Last week’s Work Wise Week (10th – 16th May) – the week that aims to promote “smarter” modern working practices – creates the space for us to think about issues like these, and to pose certain questions about how we run businesses. How can you make your organisation more productive? How can you create the right workplace culture for success?

These can be difficult questions to measure and to answer. However, this year, whether they know it or not, businesses have had a unique opportunity to put new practices to the test. Indeed, after two months of trialling alternative ways of working, companies will now have access to the tangible results that allow them to assess the ways in which smarter working can impact their business.

While we don’t yet know what the “new normal” will look like, we can be certain that the world of work will evolve – and it’s important that we recognise and embrace the benefits that new flexible ways of working bring to businesses and individuals. For instance, employees that are more able to balance work around kids and commitments might be more committed to the businesses, whilst others who want to avoid their daily two-hour long commute during rush hour might become more productive during working hours.

Ultimately, at a time of ongoing disruption and increasing competition, flexible or alternative ways of working are no longer something that businesses can afford to ignore. It calls on HR managers and business leaders to reset thinking around office space, organisational culture and technology, to help them move towards a new, more flexible, working dynamic.

So, how can HR managers implement flexible working smoothly in the long run?


  1. Define a flexible working culture

The first challenge for HR professionals is to provide clear guidelines and procedures that make flexible working efficient and easy for employees and managers to follow. Creating structures and setting up these practices is often a multi-step process that will differ between organisations.

Here, technology can be a gamechanger. By embracing technology that helps speed up new processes and automate admin, HR managers can spend more time ensuring that employees are comfortable and motivated with their new working policies. For instance, to help leaders manage teams more efficiently and make flexible working run smoothly, HR teams can harness accessible tools that take advantage of the employee data available to them. Where employers are concerned that their teams might be overworked or overstretched, this could involve making attendance tracking easy and accessible through a self-service tool, so that organisations can fully support part-time, home-based workers and those with flexible hours – and ensure they are only working the hours they need to.

Defining a flexible working culture can take time to get right, but technology can help create new processes that work for everyone.


  1. Establish support and tools for remote working

They say good communication is essential for every relationship, including your one with work. HR managers need to make sure that remote workers are able to communicate with colleagues and managers as they would within a typical office environment. Daily stand-ups, weekly check-ins and regular scheduled team calls will ensure that employees stay motivated, connected and that company culture is not lost.

To make this happen, employees must have access to the right equipment and tools, including instant messaging, document sharing and virtual meeting spaces – for instance, Slack, Google Drive, Zoom and Miro are all great tools to help teams connect, share and collaborate. But rather than taking a standardised approach across the board, it is important to understand the individual needs of your teams and departments. Once again, communication is critical. Managers must engage with employees to make sure they are equipped with the tools and knowledge they need to succeed.

By establishing extended support and tools for communication and prioritising the virtual employee experience, HR teams can help increase employee well-being and ultimately increase productivity.


  1. Raise awareness

Finally, HR managers need to raise awareness among current employees around their right to request flexible working, and the advantages that it provides. In addition, since there is a strong, unmet demand for more flexible jobs, businesses should consider it as part of their employer branding. Indeed, a recent survey by Timewise found that whilst 87% of people want to work flexibly, only 15% of jobs are advertised as being flexible.

Finding, hiring and retaining top talent can be one of HR’s biggest challenges. But, by highlighting flexible working to their employees and in their employer branding, businesses can ensure they stand out from the crowd, and attract and retain the people who’ll help them grow in the future.

This year’s Work Wise Week will be different to previous years. Now, as we think about smarter, more flexible ways of working, for a lot of companies, this is no longer just an option. It’s a must-have – especially as we consider the return to work post Coronavirus. Flexible working will be decisive for the future and survival of many companies, and it challenges HR to respond. What are you waiting for?