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Flexible working - is it as productive as it sounds?

Driving productivity in the workplace is an increasing focus area for most management teams.

As large scale delivery programmes become significant focus for moving business and profitability forward, transformation is key across not only the internal processes, products and services and technology but the people and skills that deliver against them - whether it is the skills of the workforce, bringing in key skills to deliver the programmes or creating apps, commerce, or externally with suites of products and services to customers faster better and cheaper. Executive teams look across all 4 areas to drive efficiencies, stretch more from less, decrease headcount, grow productivity and create ways of tapping in to the skills and knowledge of their workforce, which by default puts increasing pressure on surviving employees to carry more responsibility, accountability, often assumes increase length in workdays and often more travel. On the flip side, employees are also demanding greater levels of work/life balance, with 10-15 hours days not being sustainable nor desirable. Businesses that recognise this are more likely to achieve successful outcomes, retain staff and design environments that result in fulfilled and happy. In a survey carried out by Bain and co a few years ago, 10 key hallmarks of challenging jobs were outlined, of which on average if a typical employee was enduring 5 or more, attrition rates were tangibly higher.

Working from home or remote/ flexible working strategies are now showing tangible evidence of increased satisfaction, productivity, decrease in staff turnovers, positive impacts on the environment as well as reducing real-estate costs - all good reasons for building a better environment for your staff. Whats' more is that it is erasing a lot of the negative mindsets around those Monday and Friday feelings. Staff and workforce are more empowered which also encourages greater responsibility by those engaged.

The core principles in driving productivity, a happier workforce and thus deriving tangible profits and outcomes rely upon ongoing and consistent investment in people and skills and technology.

Offering flexible work models in and of itself is not enough, you need the systems in place to enable them. Whether it be a 345 model, job sharing, part-time working, flexible working hours within a full time model (enabling staff to complete work in their own timeframes and still within deadlines such as going offline between certain hours of the day), telecommuting and so forth, not one size fits all businesses and these need to be tailored around industry and type of workforce. From surveys such as that carried out by Surepayroll, most employees prefer working alone to find the headspace to think, and complete tasks as a result of minimal distractions around them. the same survey revealed that around 30% of staff telecommuting resulted in getting more done in shorter timeframes and by default 25% said that they were able to accomplish more in the same timeframes.

In instances where business are providing employees circumstances where they could work from home, the workforce had higher morale and were overall more engaged in the business as well as being seen as supporters of the business they worked for.

Other significant factors around rental of office space and realestate means that hotdesking and shared workspaces saves on overall business operational costs, as well as other factors that aid in ecological and environmental benefits. Tough commutes such as constant train issues all impact the daily mindset of staff and the 'state' they are in when in the office environment.

On top of all that, millennials are driving a new expectation for flexible work strategies and often demand roles that provide working from home and remote solutions as part of a new wave of future work engagement models. With advances in remote working technologies and the constant drive for businesses to increase profitability and drive down business costs, it makes sense for business owners to look at which strategies might yield the optimal results for them suitable to their industry and objectives; not least with an outcome of reduced turnover, thus providing more consistent results and less wastage in upskilling or training new staff members, as they are onboarded. It goes without saying also, the obvious increased cost, time, impact to others, as well as slowdown and delays in delivery capability is reduced with reduction in turnover.

There are of course bosses that find trusting people to be self-starting and motivated an issue. Some people also don't achieve results unless there is someone cracking the whip, however these are becoming increasingly insignificant and more manageable, when offset against factors such as managing stress within the workforce, loss of business days to illness and positive results in higher efficiency and quality of work.

In essence flexible working and similar models where employees have more autonomy in their own time management and accountability to deliver in a way that suits the expectations of modern life, parenting expectations and so forth are proving hugely successful and where businesses are able to support their staff they are realising true benefit.

Image courtesy of Wolfden ltd

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