Technology has transformed the way people work. In fact, it has positively flipped the traditional working day on its head. Flexiblity is now key!
Just think about what’s taken root in our everyday lives over the past 15-20 years. Mobile phones, smartphones, tablets, WiFi, productivity apps, Bluetooth, even the ability to use a smartphone as your own portable Internet hotspot.
It’s phenomenal, and it’s changing the world of work for the better.
Thanks to advances in technology, many startups and office workers can now work remotely and enjoy greater flexibility, freedom, and work/life balance. In place of rigid 9-5 structures, employees now have the opportunity to work in a way that’s better suited to their individual needs — be it working closer to home to reduce commuting and spend more time with family, or staying productive while out meeting clients.
What’s more, this flexibility has spurred many would-be entrepreneurs to start their own business.
According to the ONS, the number of self-employed people in the UK increased from 3.3 million people (12% of the labour force) in 2001 to 4.8 million (15.1%) in 2017.
While many self-employed workers operate on a remote basis, often working from home or a coworking space, those with a sense of adventure are also mixing entrepreneurship with their thirst for travel. Liberated by wireless technology and mobile devices, so-called ‘digital nomads’ get their work done in different places, and sometimes different time zones, to keep revenue coming in to pay for ongoing travel.
Workplace Flexibility: The Future of Work
From home-based employees to globetrotting digital nomads, all the signs suggest that remote working is expected to continue its upward trajectory. Indeed, the ONS found that half of the UK workforce is expected to be working remotely by 2020.
However, this technological change has happened in such a relatively short space of time that the traditional world of work is having a hard time keeping up.
Many managers have grown accustomed to ‘line of sight’ management, and aren’t familiar with working or collaborating across a digital divide.
But like it or not, it’s time to jump on that bandwagon.
A company with flexible working opportunities is much more likely to attract (and keep) the best talent for the job because this is a highly valued work perk for Millennial and Generation Z workers. A flexible workforce is said to lead to a happier workforce.
In just one study, three-quarters of UK employees said that working flexibly would make a job more attractive to them while nearly one-third would prefer flexible working over a pay rise.
Managing a Flexible Team
So how do you manage a flexible team?
Whether you’re running a startup with a flexible work policy, or you’re contracting freelancers from hundreds of miles away, these tips will help you lay the foundations for a more flexible future.
Sometimes working remotely feels strange and quiet. So it’s important to stay in regular touch with your team, using the right tools and policies, to help minimize the threat of isolation and ensure everyone is on track and happy with what they’re doing.
Keep a recurring video call meeting in your calendar ideally 2-3 times per week. The rest of the time, stay in touch in a way that works best for your team. A messenger platform like Slack or Skype chat works well, especially as you can create groups or channels for different projects and teams.
When you’re sitting in the same office, it’s easy to ask a quick question. But when you’re hundreds of miles apart, perhaps even in different time zones, your team needs to rely on other means to get the answers they need.
That’s why it’s important to document processes. It provides a useful guideline on how to do certain tasks — such as updating a website, or accessing your CRM system — and provides much-needed support to your remote team. Remember to share and store documents online and make them accessible to anyone who needs them, so only one document needs to be updated.
Pick the right tools
The right tools are absolutely vital for a successful remote working arrangement — and email is not the answer! As we all know, inboxes can quickly become a black hole of unread messages and long email chains.
Messaging apps such as Slack are great to help keep teams on the same page and make it easy to ask questions or check up on tasks. For project management, online tools like Asana and Trello enable everyone to collaborate easily, helping to keep track of deadlines and who’s doing what. Skype and Zoom are ideal for video calls, while Google Drive and Dropbox work well for online file storage and file sharing.
No two company cultures are the same, and different teams have different ways of staying in touch and collaborating in ways that work for them.
You might not hit upon the right remote working methods immediately, but don’t give up. Flexible work policies are a boon for productivity, and studies show that younger generations coming into the workforce value workplace flexibility more than pay packages and holiday perks. So keep at it. It will be worth the effort!