Flexible working is mainstream and any company that rejects it will miss out in the battle for talent. Managing flexible working takes a bit of effort, to begin with, but once the systems are in place, you’ll have a thriving team.
Managing flexible working means managing expectations on both sides
Many have long been advocating task-based working rather than hours-based working and flexible working forces the issue. A good manager generally knows what and how much their team can achieve in a day. For the vast majority of workers, this can be defined as a series of tasks with a series of expected outcomes. You can’t realistically (or ethically) monitor what your staff are doing at home and therefore you should just require them to finish their tasks at an established level of quality. Then it doesn’t matter if they finish early is the job is done!
Work with individuals to set challenging but realistic targets. Monitor their completion fairly and with the realisation, they may need adjusting. It’s great for you as a manager as you know the work’s being done and it’s great for your team because they can manage their workload in their own time. Of course, this shouldn’t only apply to WFH people. Create task-based performance throughout and no one will accuse you of double standards.
Formalise communications – how, when and where?
What is missing from in-office work is the informal communication that creates a well-oiled machine of an organisation. It’s easy to see when people are stressed and overworked and it’s clear when people have misunderstood the brief or are slipping behind. When some of the team are in the office, some remote, it’s difficult to read the room!
Regular team meetings, kept to a minimum length, are vital for keeping everyone on track. They mustn’t be skipped, even if no issues have been raised. It will make everyone feel more confident that they are in sync, performing well and working towards a common goal. Small ‘niggles’ can turn into significant issues if not addressed and it can be more difficult for remote workers to raise seemingly tiny queries.
Keep everybody on board
Flexible working should be… er flexible. This means that different needs are accommodated, not one ‘other’ way. It doesn’t just mean working from home or working a 7-3 shift. Be careful to avoid creating a model that only suits a specific portion of staff and insisting on it. Facilitate genuine conversations about working schedules with each team member. You may end up with a rather confusing mishmash of timetables but if you set the parameters and treat all requests with respect, solutions will emerge.
Manage flexible working by fostering a culture of trust
If the idea of a flexible workforce fills you with dread, perhaps you have trust issues. Flexible working involves establishing a basis of trust and without that, it’s unlikely to succeed. Spyware or remote micromanaging is not the way!
Once again, task-based working is really useful but more importantly open free and transparent dialogue with both remote and office-based workers. Ensure everyone knows their requests, questions and grievances will be treated with fairness and respect. It’s a lesson for every good leader but can be transformative in managing flexible working.