7 tips for employers embracing the flexible working trend

15th September 2021
Female working on a laptop with a dog sitting on her knee

Employees are placing greater importance on flexible working. For business owners, embracing the trend could help them retain staff and attract new talent. However, while flexible working has benefits, it can also present challenges. Read on to discover some tips if you’re thinking about implementing flexible working.

According to Legal and General, 44% of employees at SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) say flexible working is a top requirement. In fact, it came only behind recognition for work well done (45%) when asked what improves wellbeing in the workplace.

Flexible working options have been linked to improved mental wellbeing for a variety of reasons, including enabling employees to spend more time with their families. The survey found that feeling mentally well was the top wellbeing priority among 61% of SME workers. So, it’s not surprising that more employees hope to adopt this practice.

The restrictions of the last 18 months mean flexible and remote working are things many businesses have put in place, even if only temporarily.

If you’re thinking about introducing flexible working long term, these seven tips could help.

1. Focus on effective communication

Communication becomes more important than ever when embracing flexible working. Emphasising effective communication across the business can minimise mistakes. It’s not just the discussions about work that are important, if staff aren’t in the office, they can miss out on those informal chats that are just as important. Finding some way to facilitate these chats can improve your operations and how employees work together.

2. Outline what flexible working means for your business

Flexible working can mean many different things. For some businesses, it may mean employees can work wherever they like. For others, it may include employees working at times that suit them. The nature and needs of your business will affect what type of flexible working is possible, so it’s important to set out restrictions from the outset. Will employees need to work core hours or come into the office on certain days, for instance?

3. Review your equipment and employee needs

When staff first moved to flexible working you may have reviewed equipment with a short-term outlook. If it’s something you plan to instil within the company permanently, it’s worth taking this step again. Do all your employees have access to what they need to do a good job? Investing in new equipment for employees to use at home or better communication tools can make the transition to flexible working smoother.

4. Set out clear processes

With staff potentially working more independently under a flexible working model, clear processes are important. They can help ensure everyone is on the same page and understand how tasks move forward within the team. One of the challenges of flexible working is effectively onboarding new employees. Having clear processes from the outset can be useful when inducting new staff and helping them settle into their new role as quickly as possible.

5. Give employees a clear set of objectives

Flexible working can make it difficult to measure performance and feed this back to employees at all levels. Setting out clear objectives or key performance indicators can help keep everyone on track and working towards company goals. Objectives also provide you with an opportunity to feedback to your staff. As well as highlighting where there are areas to improve, remember to recognise positives.

6. Plan social events for your team to get together

While your initial focus may be on ensuring projects and work continue to run smoothly, don’t forget about the importance of company culture. With staff potentially working remotely or different shift patterns, it can be easy for teams to feel disconnected. Planning frequent socials, both virtual and in-person, can help bring the team together and give everyone a sense of common purpose and improve your company culture.

7. Regularly review how your employees are working

Embracing flexible working may be a big change for your business. Don’t be afraid to look at the change as a work in progress, rather than making one decision that you’ll stick with. Over the coming months and years, you may find that adaptions need to be made to ensure operations can continue efficiently. Setting up a regular review gives you a chance to reflect on mistakes you may make and learn what works well for your business.