Retaining Talent - 14 August 2019

Retaining Talent

Trusting staff to work flexibly helps

Technology has undoubtedly aided new ways of working. We can more easily work wherever and whenever we either want or need to. Smaller faster and more robust devices; more widely available wi-fi (often for fee) and a plethora of APPs and software have smashed barriers to working away from the main office hub.

Yet a large percentage of businesses don't trust their staff with flexible or remote working. These companies are missing out on increased productivity by ignoring this shift and clinging on to the old workplace dynamics.

Millennial and Gen Z not only prefer flexible working, they demand it from employers. According to a study by PageGroup, they now expect flexible working as a standard part of a job role.

When asked what benefits they would most like to be introduced 67% said flexi-time and 57% said flexi-place, painting a picture of how the changing workforce views their careers.

What do we mean by flexible working?

Flexible working is more than simply allowing staff to work from home occasionally, it's about creating a company culture that suits the business best.

There's no set structure. Every business should define what flexibility means to them - based on both the needs of the company and their staff. This could mean flexible working hours, flexible working locations and / or working from home. It can also involve time off allowed for personal development or family time.

Working flexibly, if used correctly, is about allowing staff the freedom to work in a manner that will be most productive. There is no forcing them to work in a certain place and a certain time, often to the detriment of the finished work.

It all comes down to trust.

Why do business owners have an issue with flexible and remote working?

It seems there's still a perception amongst many business owners and managers that if you can't see staff working, they're not actually working. This isn't surprising; after all, when technology and the internet were unreliable and slow it was more than likely the case. However, this ignores how younger generations are used to operating. Digital natives are wired towards a more flexible use of time – the 9 to 5 is pretty much an alien concept to them.

There's also the belief that by allowing staff the freedom to plan their own work hours, will ultimately deliver less productivity. However, a wealth of research suggests the opposite. Trusting your staff to work in the best way for them makes them more productive and more inclined to work effectively for you. Trust is a two-way street and businesses that trust in their staff reaps big rewards.

How does flexible working help productivity?

Flexible working makes people less stressed. More able to maintain a solid work/life balance. They work hardest when they are at their best. Healthier, happier and less stressed staff will obviously make for a much more effective workforce.

This is backed up by statistics. The fears of flexible working reducing productivity are completely unfounded.
Questioning 16,000 workers at a Chinese company, Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom, found that those people allowed to work flexibly were 13% more productive over a ten-month period. That is a big benefit to the bottom-line.

It has been found that productivity in the UK is falling behind countries such as the US, Germany and France where flexible working has become more commonplace.

Happier staff also leads to higher staff retention. If staff feel motivated and supported they are less likely to look for other roles, especially with the Millennial and Gen Z workers who have less loyalty to employers than previous generations.

How can I bring in flexible working and still maintain professionalism?

While it is technology that has enabled staff to work flexibly, it is also technology that will solve many of the issues that this can cause.

Using video conferencing APPs, collaboration services such as Slack or Monday, calendars and collaborative working via Google Suite, means there is no need to lose contact with staff or progress on specific projects. Many of the tools available will allow working as effective as working in an office.

Further, if you're happy without an office but want to present a professional image, alternatives such as virtual offices can aid flexible working and expand your reach as an employer. Your business no longer needs to be wedded to where the main office hub is located.

But at the heart of any successful flexible working arrangement comes trust. Without it, changing the culture by adding a dollop of flexible working to the mix, your new recipe is unlikely to work. Trusting your staff to work flexibly will help you to retain those you value. Furthermore, you're more likely to increase productivity. Two of the most important drivers in building growth.

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