It’s the buzzword of the boardroom; this is the time for flexible working. Work/life balance, no more pesky commutes. We feel as though all the stress in our lives will come to an end, if only we’re allowed to do flexible working.
But hang on. What do we actually mean by flexible working? Is it good for business as well as the worker? Is it right for everyone? And how does the debate about the Cloud fit in?
For flexible working to truly work, there needs to be a strategy in place. It isn’t simply a case of letting Margaret from accounts work from home on a Wednesday, or letting the designer Derek have the odd flexi-Friday. Without a clear plan and objective then flexible working could turn into a drain on resources.
Technology has freed us up from needing to work constantly in one place to get the job done. More devices, like laptops, smartphones and tablets, have made it easier for us to work remotely. Hosted exchange and that kind of technology makes it even easier as it means we have access to the same information – emails, tasks and calendars for example – as we do when sitting at our desktop.
However just because staff can work remotely, have you asked whether you want them to? You have to be able to control your internal system, as well as making sure you have the technology and the applications to make sure staff can work as effectively offsite as they do onsite.
Firstly, let’s look at the facts. A new survey asked 250 UK firms about how they’re using technology. 61% of them said they’re using Cloud-based systems. 92% of them were satisfied with the service they’re getting. Nearly three quarters of them (71%) said what attracted them to the Cloud is the flexibility.
So the drive towards the Cloud is helping to spur on this sense of flexibility. It means being able to work from device to device, being able to access the same information and collaborate with your colleagues at home. SharePoint, for example, means you would be able to still work on the same pitch or presentation from home as well as sitting at your desk.
But flexibility isn’t just about technology. What about privacy settings, strategies from the HR department about how you track hours and productivity? It’s important to be able to manage flexible working, especially if it’s something you want to embrace, but for some staff it may feel like you’re just trying to check up on them.
The key to flexible working is the same as when you’re implementing any new strategy into the workplace; communication. If you give your staff a say and let them be part of the planning process when you’re defining what flexible working means for you and your business then they are much likely to want to be involved, as well as feeling like they are defining it for themselves.