Preparing the workforce as flexible working goes viral

Article by Chris Parke, CEO and co-founder, Talking Talent

working from home, balancing career and home lifeNever has there been a greater need for the thorough planning and successful implementation of flexible working practices.

As further developments around the impact of Coronavirus unfold, working from home is now becoming a necessity rather than a choice. Working parents are just one group who have already been affected, as the closure of a number of schools across the UK has put pressure on parents to take time out of the office to care for their children.

As a business’s greatest asset, people must be effectively supported by their employer to work flexibly and be given the tools to manage their own wellbeing. Whilst the benefits of flexible working have been apparent for some time now, there are still some businesses that struggle to deviate from the traditional 9-to-5, five-day week, for everyone in the office structure. This means, however, that in times such as these, where self-isolation is now underway, these businesses simply aren’t prepared to cope with staff working remotely.

Last-minute implementation can lead to challenges for both the business and the member of staff. For example, home internet speeds might not be up to scratch, or an insufficient IT infrastructure might limit home workers accessing a company server. This can have a major impact on productivity and can cause significant downtime if not rectified quickly. Employees can also feel particularly isolated and out of touch with their colleagues, whilst others may struggle to maintain the correct work-life balance when bringing their work home.

In order to prepare, businesses should be acting now to assess just how well they are set up to support employee needs during the uncertainty, and as the situation continues to escalate. The only way to survive such unpredictability will be to have solid processes and best practices in place that make flexible working practical and manageable for everyone. These include:

Banishing bad attitudes towards flexible working

Whilst businesses have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, there still remains a certain stigma surrounding flexible working practices. To support employees, and get the most out of them, businesses must start to recognise flexible working as a positive choice. After all, three quarters (77%) of those who work flexibly would agree it helps them work more productively. They are also more likely to be engaged and yield significant advantages for employers – potentially generating 43% more revenue and improving performance by 20%, compared to disengaged employees.

Encouraging the setting of boundaries

Flexible working patterns can often make workers feel like they need to be switched on 24/7 and this can lead to significant mental burnout of an individual if not addressed and managed. For parents, working flexibly means constantly switching roles between care-giver and professional. Initially, this may mean that they seem slightly less present. Giving them time to work out and negotiate their needs, and remembering that in the long run, them saying ‘no’ when something isn’t possible, will be more efficient than saying ‘yes’ and burning out.

Exploring new ways to collaborate

Working remotely can be lonely and lead to a feeling of disconnect between employees and their organisation. Here, the use of collaborative messaging and social tools can bring workforces together, even when they are not present in the same room. Virtual tools can be another great way of communicating with co-workers and keeping the line of communication flowing.

Offering ongoing coaching and support

Coronavirus shouldn’t get in the way of developing your talent. By offering virtual coaching and support solutions, individuals are able to thrive when working both at home and in the office. Easy access to instant and virtual coaching, from video master classes to interactive tools, tips and an online community can all help to keep workers engaged, whilst giving them the necessary tools to broaden their knowledge pool. Reporting that helps to measure success and progress within these programs can also provide businesses with valuable insight into the ongoing needs of their organisation.

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