Companies can and should equip their teams to handle tasks flexibly, says Jesper Frederiksen, Vice President, EMEA, at e-signature provider Docusign.
“A reed before the wind lives on, while mighty oaks do fall”. The roots of this quote can be traced all the way back to 5th century Greek mythology, and when it comes to flexible working, this is certainly a lesson that is worth repeating.
Employees have had the right to request flexible working for almost two years, and the business benefits have been widely touted – increased productivity, improved work-life balance, the ability to attract and retain the best staff, to name but a few. All of this suggests that the trend should be ubiquitous by now, so why isn’t it the case? For many business owners and managers, the issue lies with implementation.
Whilst companies may be willing to implement flexible working in principle, many currently lack the resources to make it feasible for employees in practice. The good news though is that, with the correct tools in place, implementing flexibility does not need to be a complex process. Here are some key tips for making this a smooth transition.
Interpreting the philosophy
The concept of flexible working is open to a degree of interpretation, so an important first step is to develop a clearly defined outline of your company policy. Whilst the specifics of this may vary, the key principle is to ensure that employees are able to remain as productive when they are away from the office as they are in it. To achieve this, cloud implementation is usually a prerequisite.
A key flexible working issue that is solved by cloud implementation is providing employees with the information they need, when they need it. Hosting company data in the cloud allows staff access to the documents and services they rely on, through multiple devices, regardless of location or time.
Cloud infrastructure provides the foundation that the rest of your flexible working strategy will be based upon, so it is worth taking the time to ensure it is suited to your business. In order to do this, identify the biggest challenges and barriers your colleagues face in their day-to-day roles, or better still, ask them. Not only are they likely to suggest areas that you may not have even considered, but garnering their investment in the project makes it far more likely to become a long-term success.
Delivering the message
Another concern that is commonly raised about flexible working is that it will impede the speed at which business can be conducted. It is often suggested that staff who are spread across different locations will have trouble collaborating with one another on projects, causing delays that have a negative impact on revenue.
Fortunately, the digital tools required to circumvent these issues exist in almost all cases. For optimal results, look for a solution that integrates with the provider of your cloud infrastructure, making everyday tasks a breeze.
Taking business processes digital is essential for an effective flexible working policy, but thinking about how employees can communicate with one another is equally important. After all, creativity is fostered by collaboration, so you want your employees to be able to interact with one-another wherever they are.
Implementing video conferencing allows your workforce to maintain a collaborative working culture regardless of location, by replicating the face-to-face environment of a workplace conference room. Doing so also reduces travel time, and means that meetings can be scheduled or re-arranged in a matter of minutes, with no unnecessary delays.
For a fully-optimised remote communication strategy, a variety of platforms should be put in place for use in different situations. For instance, video conferencing, or even email, may not be the best platform for answering a quick query that only requires a one-word answer. In instances such as these, cloud-based instant messaging or social media platforms may be more suitable. As always, asking staff about the platforms they are most familiar with, and feel comfortable using, should maximise the effectiveness of your implementation.
Adapting for all situations
Remember, flexible working is not synonymous with ‘working from home’ – it encompasses far more than that. The key focus for businesses should be removing the obstacles and barriers that employees experience when attempting to work from anywhere. Making sure that the people you work with have the tools at hand in order to perform their role to the highest possible level, regardless of any unexpected challenges, is what true flexible working is all about.
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