Flexible working is harder to manage because the way the team communicates might change and as managers you have less control of a person’s whereabouts. This makes us, the managers, nervous. How will our teams communicate or collaborate with each other? What if that person doesn’t perform, goes off radar, spends the day working from Starbucks or watching TV? How do you manage without full visibility?
Our company – Halebury – is a law firm. We work with FTSE 250 companies and a number of SME clients within the technology, media, telecommunications, sports and finance sectors. Although law firms are often thought to be inflexible we have based our entire structure on flexible working.
That does not always mean part time or less hours (although in some cases it does); it means being the most effective and efficient with your time within a global 24/7 marketplace. We have embraced flexible working because it makes sense for our business and the legal sector.
Eight years on from Halebury’s launch and with the benefit of hindsight, we have learnt a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to managing an agile workforce.
1. Make sure the team are clear on the work ethos
Management has to set the tone. The tone in our team is all about being transparent and responsive. We know the team’s work patterns and they know the management’s, and we all aim to be open, responsive and deliver in line with expectations.
I would question whether those who go off radar for long periods of time or require a great deal of chasing and monitoring are ready to work flexibly.
2. Communicate effectively
Technology enables us to communicate more effectively. We know when someone is on or offline, when documents have been uploaded or when someone is in a meeting. Technology is vital for helping us stay in touch. Use it.
3. Value output over input
With the idea that time is precious and we should reward efficiency, try not to value presenteeism, instead value output. At Halebury we have structured our remuneration process to ensure that our team feel valued for their output and contribution, not the hours they put in per day.
4. Don’t take resourcing for granted
No two projects are the same, so why should the delivery system be the same? Managers need to constantly monitor their team and their abilities. At Halebury we monitor employees on each project – how they work and where they work from – to ensure that the team has the right output in each case. We change things around for every project depending on what is going on. Resourcing should be fluid and continuously monitored.
5. Recruit the right person
As always, recruitment is key. Flexible working is not for everyone or every role. It is important that you recruit the right person with the right vision for the company. Don’t just focus on skillset, look at the individual’s work ethic. Recruiting the correct person is fundamental when it comes to the success of someone being able to work flexibly.
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