Organisations are under increasing pressure to improve their flexibility capability. Flexibility can no longer be confined to the working relationship between an employee and their manager, but must become a standard way of working to meet the demands of modern life. Flexible working arrangements help teams and individuals to work productively, be more strongly engaged with their work, and stay longer with the organisation. Implementing flexible working arrangements across teams and organisations presents a variety of challenges that managers and employees will need to negotiate. Teams that are working flexibly still need to operate productively with other teams and departments that are also working flexibly. This requires new and different approaches to management, drawing on individual abilities to connect, enable and collaborate with their teams and other stakeholders in the organisation.
The benefits of flexibility for teams and organisations
Research has shown there are a number of benefits for individuals, teams and organisations when employees are enabled to work flexibly.
- Improved output. For jobs that require concentration, working at home, working at hours when the office is quiet, or working from another location can help with the quality and speed of the work.
- Flexible workers can be more effective. Successful flexible workers are excellent self-managers who are both well organised and effective communicators.
- Improved ability to meet the needs of clients and stakeholders. An organisation that works flexibly can expand service delivery hours, meeting customer needs for out-of-hours contact with the organisation. Flexible work locations may extend the organisation’s ability to react more quickly to client needs, or to extend their reach to more or different clients. Extra levels of service can increase loyalty.
- Retaining knowledge, skills and experience / avoiding the cost of recruitment and retraining. In the current job market, flexibility has become an attractive feature of organisations and has been marked as a key influence in candidates’ job choices. Retaining existing knowledge and skills is also important to ensure maximum value is gained from the organisation’s investment in recruitment and training. Offering flexibility reduces the likelihood that employees will leave and increases loyalty to the organisation.
- Employers of Choice do flexibility well. If your organisation aims to become a WGEA Employer of Choice for Gender Equality, providing employees with flexibility may align nicely with that aim.
- Increased job satisfaction. Employees who have opportunities to work flexibly have been shown to have greater job satisfaction and this increases both their productivity and their sense of loyalty to the organisation.
- Improved teamwork. Teamwork often improves as knowledge and enthusiasm are shared among a more motivated flexible working team.
Understand your role as a manager of flexible workers
Managers play a critical role in enabling and embedding workplace flexibility. Key aspects of this role are to:
- ensure employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities around flexible work
- provide employees with support and build a team culture based on high performance, trust and outcomes
- ensure communication and resource management are enabled between teams and departments
- set an example by openly supporting flexibility and working flexibly themselves, which will help employees and teams understand that working flexibly is a normal and accepted part of work.
This toolkit is designed to help managers at all levels implement productive, successful flexible working arrangements. It is intended to be of particular use to managers who directly manage employees working flexibly.
The toolkit outlines strategies that can guide you as you seek to maximise the benefits of flexibility. These strategies can be applied to the implementation of flexible working arrangements across whole teams or for only a few employees.