Flexible Working: How to Balance the Needs of a Team

A little over a year and a half ago, there were many organisations that operated some form of flexible working, and there were some organisations who were considering it in the future before BOOM we were all ‘flexibly working’ and organisations and employees had to adapt at breakneck speed.

Initially, there was some anxiety but generally a lot of people enjoyed not having to sit in traffic for an hour a day and working hours that more suited them and yes it was a pain with the kids at home as well but hey you can’t have everything. Gallup was even surprised to see the percentage of ‘engaged’ employees rise for the first time in decades in this ‘honeymoon’ period.

But now the honeymoon is over, and Gallup has seen a large fall in engagement, the lowest for over eight years, driven more by leaders and managers. Most of the fall can be attributed to lack of certainty about the future and how to deal with hybrid working.

Many companies have no official working from home policy, many let employees work their own hours and many tell employees which days and hours they can work from home. So, what’s the best approach?

From studies in the US, there is no right or wrong approach as it is still too early to determine but there are some core principles that have worked for many companies that are worth considering:

  • Determine when your team needs to be together to collaborate in person and why - There are times when getting together to work on a piece of work together is most effective and efficient in person – Sharing updates is not one of those times.
  • Seek input from your team individually on their preferences in terms of working.
  • Determine when your team needs to be available for other stakeholders, it could be customers, other departments, or suppliers and whether it needs to be in person or can be virtual. If you have a receptionist who needs to deal with couriers, it’s going to be tough dealing with this at home!
  • Look at options and trial with the team and individuals, remember that you will probably trial something and it may not work, that is ok, it is worth reviewing the arrangement monthly in the first instance. Remember it has to work for the organisation and the individual for it to be sustainable.
  • Keep lines of communication open to ensure good feedback and clarity for your people

By Gerry Lynch – Managing Director of The Real Leadership Company.