From theory to practice: implementing a flexible working strategy

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Flexible working is here to stay. The workforce are increasingly expecting employers to make allowances for flexible working, including working from home, flexi-time and compressed working hours. Today’s technology is providing the channel through which these flexible working practices are made possible. Cloud software including Google Apps and Dropbox allows businesses to embrace flexible working and create a dynamic, adaptable workforce that’s fit for purpose in the 21st century. Employees now see the chance to work flexibly as a selling point – they’ll ask about it at interviews and take notice of any mention of flexible working in job adverts. That means an employer with a strong flexible working strategy will see their business benefit indirectly as well as directly. However, it’s one thing to create a flexible working strategy and another thing entirely to implement it effectively. Work Out Loud examines the obstacles faced in the implementation process, and how you can overcome them.


Strategy to implementation

At this stage, the designated project manager will have the strategy down on paper (or in pixels) and secured buy-in from the relevant people within your organisation – the CEO, directors, department managers, or HR. There should also be a timeframe for the various stages of implementation, and the actions that each individual needs to make in order for implementation to succeed without a hitch.


Common obstacles to implementation

A Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey found that around half of organisations that tried to kick-start a flexible working strategy had struggled with implementation. The survey found that line managers were most likely to encounter the following obstacles to effective implementation:

  • Having to display a fair approach to all employees.
  • Communication problems.
  • Problems with controlling the company’s workflow.
  • Having to recruit more workers to maintain a steady output.

The survey found that financial constraints, employee resistance and a lack of interest were all far less problematic factors than those mentioned above. These obstacles may be overcome through a combination of improvements in organisation, planning and engagement.


The solutions

The Work Out Loud team have identified some of the most effective solutions to these problems.


  • Changing attitudes. Management need to be fully behind the move to flexible working. This may require a significant shift in attitudes – a step away from the need to see the office packed with busy employees and an honest engagement with the benefits of flexible working. Education, training and examples of how flexible working has benefited the business may be integral to effective implementation.
  • Resource and time management. To some degree, flexible working is reliant on trust existing between managers and employees. Where workers aren’t supervised for some or the majority of their shift, managers must be able to be confident that employees are getting the job done. Ensure that the company has a cloud software solution in place – such as Google Apps – to ensure that employees’ progress is visible. Employees should be trusted to manage their time effectively.
  • Engagement and inclusion. Some employees may begin to feel excluded from the business if others in their department continue as usual, with little regard for the worker’s new, flexible work timetable. Managers should ensure that meetings are scheduled to allow all workers to attend and participate at least semi-regularly. In addition, staff should be encouraged to ‘work out loud’ by reporting on their progress through Google Apps and other platforms. Frequent Skype calls or Google Hangouts will ensure that home working employees still feel part of the team.


If you still have concerns about the implementation of your flexible working strategy, give the Work Out Loud team a call. We provide Google Apps for business and have plenty of experience in helping companies to embrace the flexible working trend.

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