29/08/2014

By Andy Nolan, Regional Director UK, LifeSize


Flexible working is a popular employee benefit and one that is being adopted in almost every industry as a way to attract and retain key talent. More recently, we’ve seen flexible working come back on the news agenda with the recent trains and flooding which forced commuters to work away from the office. As a result, managers may find themselves facing new challenges, making them respond to an all-new set of needs and concerns from their workers.

We know it’s a benefit employee’s love, but how can managers make flexible working, work?

1: Establish Guidelines and Rules

By establishing rules and guidelines about productivity, clocking in and out, attending meetings, submitting their work and more, remote managers wont worry about an employee working from home as long as they are accountable for their time. Many managers have to deal with long standing cultural views that flexible working is unproductive — the best way to address this is to measure outcomes. If you can clearly demonstrate the benefits using facts and logic it will be difficult for them to argue against it.

2: Prioritise Morale

By seeing workplaces as communities and not hierarchies, employers are able to see things from their employees’ point of view and offer relevant information and support. Creating a community across hundreds of miles can be tricky. Trust and empathy within a community is much easier to foster when an email signature or a voice on the other end of the phone are linked to a face.

3: Communication is Vital

It doesn’t matter whether you are 15 feet apart or 200 miles away; it’s just the means of communication that have changed. Email and instant messaging are both great ways to quickly issue assignments, touch base with workers and receive feedback, but they lack the personal touch that effective communication requires. Video conferencing allows more complex dialogue to happen avoiding cases of misinterpretation that can occur with other means of communication.

4: Address Employee Performance

With 80% of employees considering flexible working as a job perk, monitoring the barometer of success remains the same. Regularly assessing each employee’s performance can be easily scheduled to monitor whether the work is being completed in a timely manner.

5: Informal Meetings are Important too

A team works best when everyone is pulling in the same direction towards a common goal–a feeling that can be hard to instill if the team is in different places geographically. Hence the importance of staging both formal strategy meetings and informal team-building meetings: they make people feel like part of a team and instill a sense of mutual responsibility. Video conferencing is the closest you will get to re-creating impromptu conversations by the vending machine or a at a break area.

6: Differentiate Channels of Communication

For some meetings, there’s no question face-to-face is the best. For other discussions a short phone call or a quick email is fine. Making sure you have the means to be in touch regardless of distance and time are what makes flexible working possible.

When managing remote employees you’re looking for the same thing from them as you are from your in-office employees: productivity and reliability. Whether by choice or not, flexible working doesn’t have to come at the expense of the quality of work produced, the input of time by the employee, or the sense of community within the business as a whole.