Too many companies are paying lip service to flexible working, says Neardesk head of partnerships Nick McCormack. Employee demand is not enough – organisations must drive change.
“Flexible working, yes, we’ve done that,” is often the response you get from senior people when you ask about flexibility. But delve deeper on aspects of working from anywhere, and the reality is often just an informal policy for working at home on a Friday.
The nature of work has changed so dramatically over recent times, as has the makeup of the workforce and their expectations of how working life should be constructed, that a ‘work at home Friday’ misses the point completely. Commuting (on average eight hours per week in the UK) to the office in order to send an email to the person sitting opposite or a client across the other side of the globe cannot be the best use of anyone’s time and adds considerably to the stresses of a working day.
The empirical evidence supporting the benefits of a ‘work anywhere’ policy is growing daily. It spans improved productivity, well-being, talent attraction/retention and reduced estate costs, to highlight just a few, so why are senior managers so reticent to embrace the change?
Technology needs to be enabled
Technology is obviously the key enabler to working away from the office. Pass any café or train carriage and it’s clear that the tools to work anywhere are readily available. However an often rigid approach by companies, shunning the ‘bring your own device’ movement and making data access from anywhere other than their secure office networks difficult means that the full potential of existing remote working technologies is not being realised.
People policies and culture are also barriers to change. They will need to adapt and, for some, an element of retraining will be needed in order to manage people remotely and not rely on presenteeism and micro management to get results. Employees must be trusted to get on and deliver to the required standards and deadlines regardless of where they are working. In turn they must trust that they will be valued by the contribution they make to the business and not how often they are at their desk in the office.
Individuals can’t go it alone
Despite the groundswell of employees clearly saying they don’t want to commute every day, preferring instead home, coffee shops and co-working spaces, it’s the business itself which has to adapt wholesale in order to make the broader change happen. It is virtually impossible for an individual or team to go it alone.
Senior teams need to address the opportunities that working anywhere represents for their business as a whole and work with their people to define how it will best fit within the organisation – each will be slightly different. Then they need to lead from the front, clearly demonstrating their commitment and approval to work anywhere and not just in the kitchen at home on a Friday.
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