Flexible working relates to an employee’s freedom to work from different locations (including working from home) and at different times of the day / on different days. Flexible working practices can be an incredibly positive way of working, but it takes a little finesse to ensure that time is spent productively and work relationships thrive when colleagues are not physically based in the same place. Working from different locations (including home) can massively reduce our need to travel and also exposes us to a range of working environments within a business. It can extend our understanding of the organisation and the complexity of micro-cultures within it, and can also teach us discipline in working proactively when not being actively supervised in the work environment. Working flexible hours can enable us to work to our own body clock, to fit in exercise and to manage work and home life effectively (especially around family commitments).
However, working flexibly does take a bit of planning and preparation to ensure that time is spent productively and that we maintain vital relationships with our team and our line manager. Below are a few key things to consider if flexible working is something you are able to benefit from at work:
clear agreement with your manager and team about what flexible working means in your environment.
This is the first thing to consider if flexible working is an option for you. Making sure that you and your team have a shared understanding of what it means to you all ensures that expectations are met and everyone feels that they are being treated fairly. Have a direct conversation with your boss about arrangements, expectations and any core business needs that must be met to ensure everyone is comfortable with the arrangement.
2) Productive working space and times.
So, once you have agreed the parameters for your flexible working schedule you need to make sure you have a place to work productively – whether this is at another work location, or at home, you need a space and time that will be conducive to you getting the job done. Working flexible hours is all well and good, but if you end up trying to work around your family or housemates, this will prove challenging! Similarly, not having the physical space to work will also inhibit your ability to do your job – if you are working from another office location, check out what the hot desk situation is and the process for securing a desk before you arrive. If you are working from home, find a space where you can set yourself up comfortably and shut the door on anything else going on around. Avoid setting yourself up in a room with a television – the temptation will be huge!
3) Maintaining contact with your team.
One of the things that can suffer when you work flexibly is relationships with your colleagues and manager. Whether it is because you are working different hours, or from a different location, it is easy to become isolated from what the rest of your team are doing. Ensure you plan in times to catch up (both via phone / video conference or in person) with your colleagues and with your manager to ensure you are all up to speed on what the team is doing and what the expectations are. Physically being in the same place as your colleagues is also important in providing social interactions through work and in building collaborative working relationships – it’s amazing what you can discuss and agree over a cuppa – so ensure you plan in times where this is possible on a regular basis
4) Using your flexible working time productively.
When we work from other locations (and especially when working at home) it can be easy to get distracted by things around us and lose productive working time. Put in place a structure for your flexible working days and stick to it. Have clear boundaries around when working time is and when it is time to switch off for the day – it is easy for the work / home divide to become blurred when you work at home. Develop a routine for your flexible working and where necessary, communicate it to anyone you co-habit with so they know not to disturb you.
Flexible working can be a great way to balance the demands of work and home life and reduce the drudgery of the daily commute, giving you more productive time for work, home life and healthy activity. Put these simple structures in place and you will find huge benefits in a flexible working schedule – for you, your family and your organisation.