Five steps to better flexible working

Flexible working's not just good for work/life balance; it can also cut costs. If you get it right...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

This week we’ve seen more big companies struggling to deal with the problem of over-capacity: carmaker Toyota and law firm Norton Rose have both been floating the idea of a four-day week to cut costs in the face of dwindling demand, just like KPMG before them. This highlights an important point (and one close to MT’s heart): sensible flexible working policies can help your business save money – which in the current climate, might help you avoid redundancies. And if you can bolster the bottom line without losing headcount, you’ll probably be in a better position to ramp up activity again when we come out of the downturn (assuming we ever do, that is).

Flexible working’s been a hot topic for a while now, of course, largely because technology is making it an awful lot easier. But in recent years the debate has been more about minimising your staff’s downtime when they’re out of the office, or (perhaps conversely) improving their work/ life balance; now it’s the cost-cutting benefits that are looking particularly attractive.

However, bringing in a flexible working policy is a lot easier said than done – so MT asked Susan Yallop, a director at recruitment Adecco, to give us her five top tips for making it work within your business.

1. Communicate it properly.

Fundamental shifts in daily working practices can seem daunting and confusing for both employees and managers, so factor in investments in time and communication to ensure that all staff fully understand what the company’s flexible working policy entails – as well as what it doesn’t. Allow some room for manoeuvre at first, but set a reasonable deadline for when new systems can be expected to be up and running smoothly.

2. Work out who needs to be where, when.

Scaling back on numbers of permanent staff can have a significant impact on office space requirements, rental costs, overheads and maintenance. That said, making sure that operations run smoothly and the available space is put to optimum use requires more than a little planning. Put together a detailed and comprehensive timetable, so you know where people are, when they’ll be in the office, which resources will need to be available when, and what deadlines need to be met.

3. Get the right kit.
To make the most of flexible working, staff have to have access to the technology and resources that will allow them to continue with business as usual, even if they’re away from their desks. But that isn’t to say that every member of staff needs the latest and most expensive gadgets; take stock of the different roles within the organisation, assess who needs what to do what and match any technology purchases to role-specific requirements.

4. Keep a close eye on output.
Flexible working can provide employees with a better work-life balance and the business with cost-reduction benefits, but it’s important that productivity is not adversely affected by the change in working practices. You know your own employees best; factor in their individual capabilities and strengths so you can identify who will need more or less supervision and support than usual.

5. Tap into remote talent.
One great advantage of remote working is that it allows businesses to access the best candidates for their business, regardless of where they are located.  If your business does not necessarily need employees to work within specific locations, areas or even time-zones, don’t feel restricted to hiring from just the local talent pool.

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