The Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (enei) surveyed 584 employees from six public and private sector organisations and their managers. As well as employee and manager questionnaires it used the DiSC profiling system, which categorises employees as dominant, influential, steadfast or conscientious.
While dominant employees are most likely to enjoy the control over their working lives and will need minimal supervision, the report said others may struggle. Influential employees may need strong direction and opportunities to communicate with the wider team more frequently. Steadfast employees could reject the opportunity to work flexibly and stick to nine to five patterns, while conscientious types are at risk of overwork and burnout.
These factors are important to consider when transitioning to an agile or flexible working environment as line managers need to be trained to spot potential problems.
Enei said organisations need to focus on of the factors that contribute to effective performance for agile working, specifically communication, diary management and technology. It said the provision of laptop computers; good remote access to files; application systems that work well when used remotely and fast reliable networks are essential.
Positively, the report found that agile workers are more efficient, productive and effective than those working traditional patterns. Employees with an agile working pattern also had higher levels of job satisfaction.
enei chief executive Denise Keating said: “The results of our survey clearly state the business case for agile working. Whilst many roles do by their very nature require a person to be in a certain place at a specific time many workers work the traditional 9-5 pattern in their organisation’s office simply because of societal norms. By breaking down these norms through the adoption of agile working, and involving staff, our research shows that efficiency, productivity, effectiveness, flexibility and job satisfaction all increase.”
The research, sponsored by Santander & DWF, also identified obstacles to the implementation of agile working, including the issues of team working and managing agile workers. The lack of face to face interaction can be overcome by effective communications and conferencing facilities, and through manager training, good management role models. However, if managers are not good role models or fail to be ambassadors for agile working enei said its implementation has less chance of sustained success.
“Simply selling the office building and sending home the workers is not enough. Our research identified many factors required to achieve these benefits, including IT infrastructure, identification of individual employee needs and the challenge of maintaining communication and teamwork when workers are physically distanced,” added Keating.
While there are clear business benefits from organisations adopting agile working, the performance benefits are likely to be greater when staff are involved in its implementation
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