5 examples of how your business could benefit from flexible working.
The trend towards flexible working is gathering pace in a wide range of industries. Its increasing prevalence is driven by the need for organisations to be more agile, adaptable and responsive in the way they work, ultimately leading to increased productivity, efficiency and profitability. It’s enabled by an increasing diversity of mobile technologies that allow people to work where, when and how they choose.
Flexible working is more than just remote access to the work network and its resources. It’s about connecting people with one another, so they can communicate and collaborate in real time from diverse locations, whether that be working from home, in the field, embedded in client or project locations, or in transit from one place to another.
It’s a mistake, though, to think of flexible working as a homogenous activity. Different people approach it differently, depending on the type of task, their personal preferences and the nature of their interactions with others within the organisation.
A truly flexible environment is one that allows workers to choose the mode of working that best suits them in any given scenario. To illustrate some of the different patterns of flexible working, we’ve identified five different user profiles that are becoming increasingly common in the modern workplace.
It’s important to remember that over time an individual worker may adopt one or more of these ways of working, and these examples are intended to be illustrative of the benefits of flexible working, rather than prescriptive.
- The Day Extender
In an increasingly interconnected and always-on world, the pressure is mounting on businesses to provide uninterrupted service and communication with customers, suppliers and partners in line with their expectations. The trend towards extended hours of business has driven the demand for flexible working options, enabling workers to create a work-life balance that works for them as well as for their employer.
This has led to different patterns of shift working, and the rise of the Day Extender, who may use video and teleconferencing to keep in touch with colleagues and clients out of office hours, as well as accessing emails and files remotely. For example, an employee with children may choose to do the school run in the morning, then continue working later in the evening to make up the time.
- The Road Warrior
Despite, or perhaps because of, the proliferation of visual collaboration tools, face-to-face contact is more important than ever in building successful business relationships and improving general communication irrespective of location Business leaders, as well as salespeople and account managers, spend a significant proportion of their working lives on the road, meeting clients and networking.
These workers need to stay connected with the office base throughout the working week, communicating and collaborating with colleagues on a variety of mobile devices as well as accessing systems such as CRM and ordering systems while on the road. Merely accessing emails on smartphone is no longer enough for the Road Warrior. They can also save time and travel costs by conducting non-essential meetings by video. Research by Cisco has found that up to 70% of meetings can be conducted just as successfully over video, with significant cost and productivity benefits for businesses.
- The Multi Locator
The Multi Locator is generally office-based, but works for a multi-site company and moves between different locations on different days. A roaming hot desker, this worker needs to know that whichever site they arrive at on any given day, they can plug in and have full access to the company systems in seconds.
Meeting the Multi Locator’s needs is not just about providing access to the IT infrastructure and software that they need, but also about creating a physical environment that best supports their mobile role, providing an adaptable hot desk work setting that they can adjust to their preferences within minutes.
- The Home Worker
There are many varied reasons why some workers want or need to spend some of their working week working from home. In a culture of increasingly long work hours, those with families or other out-of-work commitments can find it hard to strike a balance between work and personal life, and working from home can provide a solution that enables the two to be flexibly integrated.
Far from decreasing productivity, studies have shown that home workers regularly show a higher work rate than office-based staff. This can partly be attributed to the extra time and energy available by removing the need to commute, but also to additional discretionary effort made in recognition of the trust that home working involves. Needless to say, seamless remote access and support are required to enable the home worker to achieve this.
- The Office-based Worker
There will always be a proportion of the workforce whose roles require them to be office-based for the majority of the time. However, these workers will often need to collaborate with their mobile and flexible working counterparts, which will require them to access the same collaboration tools and cloud-based systems as their remote-working colleagues.
Enabling flexible working means embedding these systems across the entire business, allowing all staff to access and utilise the same software, communication and collaboration tools. Not only this, but you must also invest sufficient time and resources into properly training and onboarding your staff for the benefits of flexible working systems to be fully realised. This is the key to unifying your organisation, both in terms of infrastructure and from a people perspective.
Flexible working is not a case of one-size-fits-all. Different individuals require different tools and work settings, depending on their role, their preferred working style, and the way they fit into the business as a whole. Each organisation has its own unique flexible working profile, and the way it adopts these new technologies and work strategies must be carefully thought through to ensure it maximises the benefits.
Finding the right workspace technology partner will ensure your business develops a coherent and goal-oriented flexible working strategy. Claremont’s workspace technology consultants have a proven approach to understanding the needs of each business, and identifying the areas of greatest opportunity for it to innovate its working practices to drive productivity, collaboration and business performance.