Corporate Culture & Productivity

What is flexible working?

Darin Herle
May 20th, 2021

What is flexible working? Flexible working allows employees to work where they feel most productive. This allows for enhanced teamwork and facilitates chance meetings and off-topic chats that can snowball into innovative ideas and business decisions.

While the future of flexible working is hybrid, encompassing both remote and in-office work, two primary working styles are at the forefront within this model: agile and activity-based work.

Benefits of flexible working include:

  • Increasing productivity and work/life balance
  • Producing a higher caliber of work
  • Widening the talent pool without restrictions on location
  • Cutting costs where applicable (e.g., a smaller office to accommodate a certain number of employees at a time)

While flexible working had been around for years, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated its adoption. The number of remote workers around the world dramatically increased, resulting in a new understanding of what’s possible outside of the office. 

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However, while many employees report higher productivity levels—a survey from Flexjobs found that 95% of employees say they’ve been more productive while working from home—there are also employees that want to be back in the office for in-person collaboration. According to Microsoft, 67% of employees say they want to return to the office post-pandemic. 

Now that more employees are returning to the office, it’s important that companies adapt to the new normal of the hybrid workplace, and offer working solutions that allow for flexibility both in and out of the workplace.

So what might a flexible working environment look like for the modern office?

flexible work styles

Flexible working: agile and activity-based work

Remember, there’s no one way to implement flexible working into your organization. What works for one company might not work for another, so it’s best to consider what your employees need, what current space you have, and what’s realistic for your company as a whole. 

There are two main types of flexible working: agile working and activity-based working.

Agile working, commonly interchanged with flexible working, specifically refers to the work done inside the office. For example, instead of having rigid “working hours” of 9-5, allow employees to choose when they get their work done. 

This way, employees can do their best work when they’re mentally and physically able to do so. Some employees work better in the early morning hours, while some are night owls. Some have families that require attention and care during certain hours (like before and after school). Allowing employees to work on their terms sets them up for success from the start. 

Activity-based working is another type of flexible work. Unlike agile working, activity-based working refers to the spaces within the office designed for certain tasks. For example, your office could have a designated collaborative space meant for brainstorms, quick meetings, or socializing. Or, your office might create a quiet space for deep work. 

flexible communication

Key elements to consider when implementing flexible working

When thinking about implementing flexible working into your organization, there are a few key elements to consider:

Communication

Making big changes to how your company works and functions calls for clear communication. Many times, the reason why a transition like this fails is due to poor communication. Instead, plan your communication process before you start to roll out any changes.

Using workplace management software can help facility managers (FMs) ensure they’re connecting everyone to the right information at the right time. Whether its updating available desks through Visual Directory® so that employees can accurately see what’s available via their mobile device, or leveraging an integrated Slack channel to provide information and desk booking capabilities, good workplace management software should make it easier to communicate and connect.

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Technology

One of the core components to a successful transition like this is to use the right technology. Without it, it will be difficult to plan, optimize, and communicate. Choose software that helps you work smarter. Tools like Google Docs, Slack, Dropbox, and more can help facility teams implement changes according to plan. 

In addition to collaboration tools, workplace software can help streamline this change for facilities teams. Integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) with planning features can help FMs understand how best to approach this shift based on resources, budget, and available space. For example, using Distancing Planner to ensure workspaces are positioned correctly can help staff make informed decisions about the workspace and its availability.

Feedback

To ensure this transition is a success, it’s critical to collect feedback from your organization. How are employees adapting to the change? What could be better? What is going well? 

Without insight into how your employees are handling the change, it’ll be difficult to make decisions for their benefit. 

Launching a flexible working environment is a big undertaking, but necessary as the new normal is leaning towards the flexible hybrid workplace model. Flexible working is here to stay, and will continue to evolve as the world does. 

Learn more about flexible working.

Photos: Leon,  LinkedIn Sales Solutions, Christina @ wocintechchat.com