However, a recent study by ACAS shows that flexible contracts can also come with a certain negativity.
So what causes these issues and what is the solution? How can a business welcome the many positive aspects of flexible working, while nipping any negativity in the bud? We've put together our five top tips;
1.Process is King
Ensure you have clear processes for everyone to work with, so that your team can be focused and efficient in their roles, but also so that everyone knows where to go to find information, for example where to check the status of a piece of work, if the person working on it isn't in. Have some consideration and understanding, often the flexible worker and manager haven't been trained in how to work this way, so take the time to work through potential scenarios and involve the whole team in putting effective processes in place, that work for the full timers and part timers.
2.Communication is crucial
It’s important that everyone in your team understands who’s due to be working when and at what time. If expectations are managed and channels of communication are kept open, any concerns that flexible workers aren’t staying in the loop should be quashed early on.
In fact, a study by Unison suggests that “establishing flexible working practices can provide you with the opportunity to organise and involve members in the process of implementing better working conditions. This can be done by sending newsletters, producing posters for notice boards or holding meetings to spread the word.” Flexible working can be an opportunity to bring staff closer together in more creative ways.
3.Keep an open mind
Just as staff with non-flexible contracts will occasionally need to alter their work pattern to meet targets, flexible workers should stay open to being ‘flexible with flexibility’. If remote workers are seen to be pitching in when projects run over, this will remind the wider staff network that everyone’s pulling together as a team - wherever they happen to be based.
It’s also worth being as transparent as possible with flexibility options that are available to employees - and it will work best if they really are open to everyone, not just parents. This takes any confusion and mystery out of the flexible working process and makes it clear to all staff that the process is fair and open to all.
Collaboration needn’t be reserved for those who work in the same building or on the same schedule. With apps such as Trello, Slack, Google Drive, Asana and Evernote it’s easy to set up systems for colleagues to stay in touch and bring their skill sets to a range of projects. This technology is as useful for homeworkers as it is for those who have staggered start and finish times, or who have opted for a compressed working week. It keeps all actions and conversations in one easy-to-access space so everyone can do their bit and makes handovers run much more smoothly.
5.Boost team culture
If staff don’t see their colleagues in person for long periods of time, or feel that there colleagues are getting a better balance and work less, conflicts can go unresolved, which can lead to stress. An important aspect of helping staff feel connected (and to prevent negative associations with flexible working becoming a problem) is engagement.
In our team we all have a daily huddle meeting at 9.30am each morning, regardless of where anyone is working, we update each other on our focus for the day, where we need support, decisions to be made, so that afterwards everyone can get on with their day efficiently.
It's also worth arranging regular social events, either during the day - lunch and learn or coffee catch ups, or after work events (although ensure you vary the times as flexible workers often have to leave early). This allows employees who work at different times or in different locations to get together and bond.
If you want to increase the flexibility in your team, get in touch to see how we can help - we often recruitment services and also consultancy, to help embed effective working in your existing teams.