How to manage flexible working in 2021 and beyond

Flexible working employee - How to manage flexible working in 2021 and beyond | IRIS
By Anthony Wolny | 27th May 2021 | 6 min read

Due to COVID-19, the world has changed forever, with flexible working now the new normal for many employees.

But is your business managing flexible working effectively?

As 57% of people surveyed by YouGov say that after the pandemic, they want to be able to continue working from home to some extent, it’s crucial that your procedures are on point.

To help you manage flexible working in 2021 and beyond, we’ve compiled seven practical tips that you can apply to your business so you can stay at the forefront of the employment landscape.

But, before we look at how to manage flexible working, it’s good to get an idea of what it actually is.

What is flexible working?

For many businesses, flexible working was hastily forced upon them and ultimately a response to the numerous country-wide lockdowns.

So, if the term is not fully ingrained in your workplace culture, don’t worry – we’ll cover it here to give you a greater understanding.

In essence, flexible working, also known as remote working, flexitime, home working and working from home (WFH), is when a business provides employees with the freedom to decide where and when they work.

Now we’ve answered the question ‘what is flexible working?’, it’s time to understand the various types.

Colleagues working from home as part of flexible working arrangements - How to manage flexible working in 2021 and beyond | IRIS

The types of flexible working

Flexible working typically means employees can work from home, in the office or a mixture of the two.

It can also mean flexible working hours which impact start and finish times.

With flexible working hours, employees would still work the same number of hours but start at a time that suits them.

For example, a person working flexible hours could start anywhere between 8:00-10:00 and finish anywhere between 16:30-18:30.

Regarding the time aspect, some employers have adopted an even more flexible model over the pandemic in which employees can work whatever hours they want, providing they finish their work, enabling them to balance personal responsibilities far easier.

In this model, an employee could take a few hours off mid-day to care for their children, making the time up in the evening once they’re free, or they could even choose to start much earlier to avoid working late into the evening.

Now that we’ve covered the different types of flexible working – let’s look at how you can manage it more effectively in the future.

1) Set expectations for remote workers

A fear that many businesses had before the pandemic was that people aren’t productive when working from home.

Would they spend all day watching daytime television?

We now know that this isn’t the case, and there’s no need to worry – if anything, studies have shown that people get more work done when operating from home.

But if you still have concerns when managing employees operating remotely, then we recommend that you set some expectations for your flexible workers.

These expectations can range from setting objectives that gauge performance to outlining requirements for people throughout the day, such as ensuring they’re available to be called or emailed at a particular time.

2) Try to minimise workplace disruption

Flexible working can result in employees frequently jumping between the office and home at various times.

To minimise the disruption this can create for those working permanently within the office – we advise that you share a schedule of when people are due to be in the workplace.

If an employee is instead coming into the office on an ad-hoc basis, then they should try when possible to give some notice.

Another way to minimise disruption is to create a designated hot-desk area so that workers on flexitime aren’t rattling around the office looking for a free space every time they’re back in.

The positioning of this hot-desk area could also be close to an entrance to help further keep disruption to a minimum.

3) Don’t lose sight of people

Due to the rapid rise in flexible working, many businesses had to adopt digital tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom to maintain daily communications.

Now that workplaces are open and we’re likely to see a split between office workers and those working from home, it’s crucial that focus remains on keeping everyone connected to avoid workforce segmentation.

We advise that you continue using electronic tools to host virtual meetings keeping those employees that are working from home involved, and be sure to send regular messages/emails to keep everyone in the loop.

4) Maintain frequent communications

It’s easy to feel left out when you’re working from home, and this negative mindset can severely impact engagement, satisfaction and productivity.

To help avoid the feeling of isolation, keep remote workers up to date on the latest company news, whether it’s business or personal, by sending newsletters or with a business-wide Microsoft Teams channel.

HR teams can also utilise software in order to keep track of their workforce and ensure communications don’t break down, just because some of the workforce isn’t in the office.

Also, managers must ensure they’re providing their remote employees with just as much time and attention as if they were in the office.

A whole team using flexible working effectively and maintaining strong communication via digital tools - How to manage flexible working in 2021 and beyond | IRIS

5) Continue to praise those working from home

While in the office, it’s far easier to walk across to someone and congratulate them on what a fantastic job they’re doing.

This simple act can boost someone’s day and help them feel valued and motivated.

So, when you have flexible workers, you must continue to offer praise where it’s due, as without it, employee engagement and satisfaction can quickly fade.

If you see an exceptional piece of work or someone helps you out, drop them an email, message, or call, and let them know what a great job they’re doing.

Calling out great examples of work in newsletters or weekly/monthly announcements is another way you can show praise.

6) Trust employees and don’t micromanage

The cornerstone of enabling successful flexible workers is trust.

Set those who are working remotely goals and objectives just like every other employee, and then leave it to them to excel.

Don’t be tempted to micromanage people because you’re worried about the impact of flexible working on employee performance – instead, offer them the freedom to manage their workload independently.

By doing so, you’ll not only enable them to manage a better work-life balance, but in many cases, when people can work on their own terms, you’ll see a rise in productivity.

7) Change your culture

If flexible working is a new policy within your business, then you’ll most likely require a culture change as those who are still office-based may feel somewhat resentful to those working from home.

Educate your workforce on why flexible working is now an option, and for those roles that must still be permanently in the office, explain to them the reasoning.

As for employees who can work flexibly, make sure they know what’s in place to support them and if any changes to their role are required.

How can IRIS help?

What is the flexible working arrangement like in your business?

Whether you’re looking to enable your HR team to work from home, or you want to support other employees working remotely – cloud-based HR software is critical.

Key HR processes such as absences, L&D, holidays, rotas and reporting are all far simpler when managed via a modern solution.

Whether you’re a small business just starting up or a global enterprise, we have HR software for you!