A blog explaining the benefits flexible working can bring to your entire workforce – not just those born since 1980.
Generation X arrived, and it hasn’t gone anywhere. Their offspring, the Millennials, are no longer kids. And Gen-Z is already joining the workforce. (By all accounts they’re even more unique than the Millennials.)
But while it’s okay to think about how various birth cohorts approach their work, don’t forget there are plenty of people in your workplace who don’t conform to a stereotype.
Think of Tom in HR, who’s supposedly a Millennial, but has never hassled you with demands for meditation retreats in Tibet. (If you believe the media, every under-35 spends half the year spinning prayer wheels in downtown Lhasa.) Or Shannon in IT, who’s one of those weird Gen-Z’ers… but doesn’t show a hint of the self-entitled insecurity she’s supposed to have. Or there’s Ted. A Gen-X’er, maybe even older. More experienced, a few more miles on the clock, and you don’t see him much. But under UK law, he’s got the same right to ask for flexible or remote working arrangements as any spiky-haired youngster.
Tom, Shannon, and Ted are at different stages in their careers. And perhaps have different priorities in life. So what they’ll get out of flexible working might not be obvious.
But they all matter.
So instead of slotting people into boxes, look for the profiles that signify whether people will benefit from flexible working…. and whether they’ll have a positive effect on your company as a result.
Here are a few to get you started.
Sort your larks from your owls
You know who they are. Some people have done a spinning class with a side order of CrossFit when you pass their desk at 8.30am… but they tend to be flagging by 5. Others think they’ve won the day when they make it in by 10:30, but you always see them still at work late into the night. The point is, it is all about empowerment and trust; about managing people by objectives and not by personal choices. It’s about empowerment and it’s about trust. In short, it is about letting your people be themselves.
With several types of flexible work defined, would matching the work day with people’s natural biorhythms aid productivity? If so, offer the option for a 7-to-3 day or a night shift. There are benefits to all…and technology like broadband videoconferencing can keep them connected.
Be aware who’s going shallow or deep
A recent book by an American academic separates, work into “shallow” and “deep” periods: easy but time-consuming tasks like dealing with email, and harder stuff that needs focussed concentration. Surprisingly, most people have a preference for when they do each.
So look at user profiles. (Better, look behind the text at what the company really needs from each person.) Do some people have a role which could be done remotely (flexible working doesn’t necessarily mean home working), does their job demand they are out on the road, is it a mixture of external and office based work? How can you provide a workspace that facilitates this?
Separate the crowd-lovers from the loners
Any HR manager knows about psychological types and how they expose a preference for human interaction. Why not apply the principles to flexible working?
Around a quarter of your people need space alone to be productive; another quarter can’t do without human company. The reality is that the majority of your people will need (and have jobs which demand) a mixture of the two. Empowerment is about letting your people decide, giving them the tools they need and training the management to best work with their teams in a digital environment.
Look at the road ahead, not the path already travelled
When’s the best time to talk to someone about flexible working? Now!
Regardless of personal circumstances, everyone likes (or demands) flexibility in their work environment. What’s more – there are huge benefits for employers who can hire staff across a wider geographic pool. What’s even better? If you give your workforce what they want they are more likely to stay, it might seem obvious but it is often overlooked, for example, Plantronics saw attrition rates drop to just 2% since they introduced their Smarter Working initiative.
Keep an eye on work-life balance
Today’s digital environment can lead to more work/life imbalance than ever before – even with all the digital tools in place. Nearly 40% of workers say they work longer hours when working remotely to counteract any suspicion they may be taking advantage of the company’s central office.
The huge benefit of the digital workplace is that your people can manage their life around work and vice versa. They can manage their day around the times which they are most productive, make use of travel time and stay in touch wherever they are in the world!
“The Digital Workplace is the freedom to work as individuals and teams anytime, anyway, anywhere”
-Earl Talbot, NTT Europe
Flexible and remote working are enabled by technology. (One reason HR and IT make a dream team!) But you’ll see a theme in the above: it’s all about getting to know your people, as people. And that’s the reason you went into HR in the first place.
- Gen-X, Millennial, Gen-Y: communication and collaboration for those who don’t care what label you put on it!
- To get the most out of flexible working give your users the freedom to choose
- Enabling flexible working with IT give your users the freedom to choose