There’s more to working from home than seeing Australia 60 all out in the cricket. Flexible working means empowering employees to work in ways that better suit them. This refers to relaxing the constraints around working hours, working patterns and working locations, which will increase productivity.
But those looking to reap the rewards of such a company culture must remember that it takes trust. Trust your staff to work hard offsite, and they have to trust you to appreciate their contribution just as much as you did when they were in the office. Let’s have a look at how companies are already testing this idea before we implement it ourselves…
Perks & Recreation
An increasing number of companies is looking to offer employees great benefits and time to do what they like.
It’s now quite a common feature of tech start-ups in Silicon Valley to offer employees unlimited holiday, and bigger firms have started to catch on, including the Virgin Group. This works on the logic that getting the work done is the objective of your company, rather than keeping your employees locked in the office. Makes sense, right?
Airbnb has a notoriously good perk system for its employees, who boast that their firm has one of the best company cultures around. $2000 a year to travel where you want, bring your pets to work, ping pong tables and themed days (see video below), to name but a few benefits.
But is all this ‘forward thinking’ lark actually helping?
Flexible time + flexible location = increased productivity
Research from workplace provider Regus found that 74% of office workers believe that flexible working boosts their productivity.
The idea of flexible working is that employees are given the opportunity to work to the rhythms that best suit their productivity peaks and troughs throughout the day. Some of us are particularly susceptible to that post-lunch 3 pm slump, whilst others don’t stop going on about how brilliantly productive they are when burning the midnight oil.
Evidence suggests flexibility in workplace location also appears to boost the productivity of staff. Some argue for a responsibility factor: employees tend to work harder when they are out of the office. Not only do they feel a greater sense of control and less stress, they also feel more of an obligation to be visible to teammates. A 2012 study by polling company Ipsos MORI found 47% of employees surveyed said they attempted to be ‘more visible’ by sending more emails and making more calls. Even more, 60% said they worked longer hours when they worked flexibly.
Furthermore, if staff are able to work in the location that suits them best, they can reduce travel time. The Anywhere Working Initiative found that cutting the average UK worker’s commute for only three days a week would save 1.5 days every month. This time could be spent elsewhere, such as on work, pursuing hobbies or with friends and family.
So it seems that time and location are entwined factors in their contribution to worker productivity. More than 1/3 of UK office workers feel they’re sacrificing sleep to fit in both work and personal commitments, so flexibility in location and hours could make a huge difference.
As a knock-on effect, businesses report greater staff retention and recruitment if they are able to offer flexible working.
What can be done?
There is a worry that if offering employees such a scenario at work, they’ll take the biscuit.
Here are some ground rules to employers when it comes to not letting “flexible working” deteriorate into nothingness:
- Be always on – make sure you and your employees have the technology to stay in touch
- Set measurable targets regularly – make sure people know what is expected of them and measure them against these goals
- Lead by example!
To reemphasise the beginning of this post, trust is essential. It might be a risk to trust staff to work where and when they like. But if it pays off, not only will it increase productivity, it will also create a much more collaborative company culture.