Adapting to a flexible working culture
After several months of enforced social distancing, it is fair to say that many have got accustomed to working from home. Whilst video calls, including rogue pets, inquisitive children, and deliveries arriving on cue, have become an essential part of staying in touch, maintaining company culture takes ongoing work.
If businesses are to benefit from sustained flexibility, with options to work in multiple locations and coming together in coworking or office spaces, then there is the need to understand how to maintain a good ‘workplace’ culture – however it is structured.
Clearly explain why your business has chosen a flexible working model, and what the objectives of doing so are including how it aligns with business goals. Then take the time to understand why employees take up the options available, and how flexible working fits their own personal objectives, priorities, and lifestyles.
Flexible working requires trust. Shared ambitions and mutual understanding will help with setting boundaries, compromises and smooth over any frustrations that may come whilst everyone adapts.
Whilst separated, it can be easy to neglect the importance of general rapport and development of friendships. These personal connections help to keep employees engaged and is often what differentiates one workplace from another in the same sector. Where others may thrive, let us not forget that there are those more socially-driven, who may find remote working isolating.
Without this vital connection, talent may look to move. Technology will play a critical role, but do not assume one size fits all as some tools will be better suited for more informal conversations than others.
Face-to-face interactions may become more important than before too. Think beyond the annual summer and Christmas socials with smaller more frequent get-togethers.
Reduced daily connections mean that internal and corporate communication need to be done in a way that improves employee-employer relations. Good communications which includes style and personality, means of delivery, and frequency will contribute to the feeling of employee value. Employees seek to be recognised, and research has shown that greater personalisation, when positive, provided a more meaningful connection leading to added effort and improved productivity.
Improved communications will also make employers more approachable, helping to build a more collaborative team culture.
Although ways of communicating and connecting will support company culture, infrastructure will provide the means for smooth implementation. With employees based in multiple locations and collaborating through online tools, businesses should ensure convenient access to high-speed internet, networking tools and traditional office equipment.
This does not mean equipping every employee’s home. Even then, an employer will not have control over connectivity. An alternative is to have smaller satellite hubs in which employees can travel short distances when needed to access shared services like printers, scanners, meeting rooms, and teleconferencing equipment, as well as meet with colleagues and clients.
Localised coworking, shared workspaces, or membership based venues can work well to create a decentralised network to apply flexible working.