Why managers must be more flexible

A new survey suggests poor management is the biggest barrier to the success of flexible working...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Most discussions about the risks of flexible working tend to focus on cultural issues (how do you make it work for the team), on technology issues (how can you facilitate the process) or on trust issues – as emphasised by the story we reported last week about a charity employee accused of doing three jobs while he was working from home. But a new survey highlights another key question: do managers have the skills to make flexible working effective?

According to a new study by BT Business, 88% of managers have never received training on how to get the best out of flexibly working employees. Now at first, this may seem an odd notion: after all, it’s still the same person doing the same job as they would be doing if they were in the office all the time. But in practice, the challenge is very different. It takes a good manager to get the best out of home-based staff – while keeping them happy at the same time...

The study revealed that employees don’t always see flexible working as a bed of roses. Nearly a quarter said they were worried that their co-workers would accuse them of skiving if they worked from home, while almost half fret about missing out on the day-to-day camaraderie and banter of office life when they’re not there in person. A further 22% even claimed they don’t have the technology to work from home, which seems a bit lame in this day and age.

To address these various problems, BT has produced a Remote Managers’ Toolkit, which contains various recommendations about how to do it better: from measuring output rather than hours, to exploiting technology to the full, to providing training for your home-based staff on how to work more effectively. (We reckon there’s probably a page in there about making sure they don’t take extra jobs, but we wouldn’t swear to it.)

One thing’s for sure: this problem isn’t going to go away. Nearly three quarters of businesses offer staff the chance to work flexibly, and under the latest DERR scheme, another 4.5m people will be freed up to do so. And no wonder – it’s better for the environment, better for staff satisfaction and better for work/ life balance. But only if it’s handled right...

In today's bulletin:
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Why managers must be more flexible
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