Homeworking is still not as common as one might think, especially when you consider how long the concept has existed for.
Fintech startups need to be agile and flexible in the ways in which they work and having everyone physically present in the office is not necessary.
That’s also true for larger, more corporate businesses, but homeworking is much less prevalent in those organisations.
This is gradually beginning to change though, and I can foresee a time when organisations of all sizes and industries are receptive to more flexible ways of working. But while allowing homeworking will be a uniformly positive decision for most businesses, it does need managing effectively.
This is particularly true when trying to maintain team spirit and motivation. With many people working from home, that sense of unity can be impacted quite easily.
Agree policy…and stick to it
If you are going to allow and encourage homeworking in your business, then key to making that work for you will be defining and sticking to a home / flexible working policy. How many days a week will you allow staff to work from home? How much notice do they need to give? How will you monitor workloads?
We have aimed for the ultimate ‘Agile’ environment. This is an environment that for a software firm, values individuals and interactions over processes and tools. In our pursuit of this, we placed collaboration and communication at the heart of how we operate. There is a daily scrum, where employees gather to discuss the pressing matters of the day, all geared towards meeting the goals of the fortnightly sprint. Not only does this make a major contribution to our progress, but it empowers staff and ensures they all play a crucial role.
But do we need people to be here and present for each daily scrum? Not at all, and people are welcome to join remotely if that works best for them. We do insist that people are in the office for the fortnightly meetings though. We feel this is important for us all to check in with company progress and really helps to keep the sense of cooperation and camaraderie that is integral to our success.
So once you have established rules and policies such as the above, then they must be clearly shared with all staff and any newcomers employed from that point onwards.
Ensuring it works
Once a policy is up and running and in place, then you do need to make sure that is working for both the organisation, and the employees. I have found from previous roles, that working on a basis of trust is the best place to start with flexible working. If team members wish to work from home, and need time out for a few hours, then as long as they make the time up, that is okay.
We operate a shared calendar that we ask for people to keep updated so if we need to find someone, then we can do easily. If that trust is abused, either by people not putting the time in, or with a demonstrable downturn in output, then we would have to rethink the policy for that individual. But that isn’t actually something that I have had to address. People respond well to trust generally, and that applies to home working too.
Use the tech that works best for your business
There are many options for effective homeworking in terms of the technology required – you need to choose the options that work best for your business. We use Perch, which means that people can appear on iPads in the office when working from home. Users get the benefits of being able to see who is in the office and still feel like they are part of the team, but with the additional benefit of being able to ‘mute’ everyone if you have important deadlines to meet.
When calling in we use ‘appear in’, which is a Slack integration that enables video conversations for up to eight people for free. Slack is a rapidly-growing tool for team communication and is just one example of how a company can identify and deploy the right homeworking tools for their needs.
Providing more flexible ways of working is very much the future of the workplace. But a successful business will usually be a united one, and it is important to retain that unity whilst also providing the flexible working demanded by the modern workforce.
By Martin Campbell, MD, Ormsby Street