More and more people are demanding flexibility in the workforce, most commonly, where and when they do their work. In recent years there has been an increase in telecommuting, contracting, consulting, freelancing, etc. Employees want to be able to decide when and where they work. Of course not all companies and businesses have made the switch, or offer this flexibility yet. If you want to attract and retain the top talent right now, you need to have a flexibility strategy. So, how can a brick and mortar business integrate these new workers?
Decide what will and won’t work for you
First and foremost know that these creative ways in which we work, does not in fact work for everyone or every position. Some people do their best work in the confines of an office. Other employees work well in a telecommute or flexi situation, yet are mismanaged by supervisors whose management style does not mesh well with the situation. For example Marissa Mayer did away with telecommuting at Yahoo because managers were unable to hold their reports accountable. “Mayer defended her decision by first acknowledging that ‘people are more productive when they’re alone,’ and then stressed ‘but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.’.” Having the ability and know how to offer some flexibility, as the workforce changes is a good idea, but you need to know what works for your business.
Formulate a Plan
What kind of flexibility will you offer or what type of workers are you expecting to hire? Are you planning on rolling out a telecommuting strategy for those employees who have expressed some interest in working from home or offsite? Do you have a few one-off projects that your current employees don’t have the time or expertise for, so you are considering hiring a temporary contractor? Have you recently launched your website and you would like a freelancer to handle its updates and possibly write your blog? You will first need to know what kind of flexibility would work best for your company and formulate a plan accordingly.
Educate and Train
Once you have decided on what kind of flexibility is best, you will need to let your employees know and train the necessary people. You will need to educate and train both managers and your HR team on how to work with these new types of employees. Jacob Morgan a Forbes contributor gives us this advice, “It’s important to make sure that managers know how to communicate and collaborate with virtual employees and vice versa. This means not only understanding the soft skills but also understanding how to use the right technologies to facilitate the desired interaction. Virtual employees also need to receive their own type of training.” HR will need to work with IT to make sure all business requirements are met and resources are available to the employees.
Technology and Tools
To be able to telecommute, or work a flexi schedule successfully you will need certain technology and tools. You need to be able to easily share files with coworkers, attend meetings, and collaborate all while out of the office. First, the basics, you will need a computer, internet, and cloud storage. You will also need a way to chat with coworkers and a way to share files. There are many programs available now that nurture this type of work. Some of the more common or well-known options are: Skype for when you need to see your colleagues, Google Docs for easy collaboration on projects, and an instant messaging platform, such as Microsoft Lync, for you and your coworkers to quickly relay messages.
Offering flexibility will require some trust, but it’s likely to increase productivity if handled correctly. If a strategy and some trust are in place allowing employees to telecommute or work flexible hours could result in more goals met. The key to making this work is making sure your employees know what is expected of them. Evaluate them on goals and/or timelines met and projects completed rather than how much time they spent in the office. Yes, you will have to trust that they are working and not sleeping the day away, but the truth is not everyone can produce their best work between 9 and 5 while sitting in a cubicle. Some people are night owls others are early birds. As long as the work is getting done well, and in a timely manner, what does it matter that it was done by someone in their sweats at a Starbucks? Communication is a necessity for flexible work to in fact work. Expectations need to be clear for all parties.
When it comes to flexible work there are options. You could allow employees to work from home either one day a week, or all the time. You could allow employees to work slightly different hours, for instance, working ten hour days in order to get a half day off every week, or one day off every other week. The best part about having a flexible workforce is just that, it’s flexible. People don’t have set schedules, so when something urgent comes up, they can best decide how to reprioritize their day.
As the workforce changes and becomes more flexible, it would be beneficial for your company to do the same.