When flexible just isn’t working » SMEInsider

When flexible just isn’t working

UK employees have the right to request flexible working hours, and adopting them in your company can have huge benefits. But if you go about it the wrong way, it’s doomed before it’s started. Take a look at the seven deadly sins of flexible working from consultant Clive Andrews.

1. A lack of trust

Flexible working is built on trust and it’s essential that you treat your employees and colleagues like the grownups they are. Obviously, if deadlines are missed or you regularly can’t get hold of them when you need to, these issues will need to be addressed. But just because someone goes off grid for a few hours, there’s no need to send in a SWAT team. Show them a little faith!

2. Not being open

By the same token, open communication is crucial to flexible working, says Andrews. If you aren’t going to be contactable for a few hours, whether because you’ve got a conference call or you’re nipping out for a swim to clear your head, it’s a good idea to let colleagues know that you’ll be offline for a while. Internal social networks like Yammer can be a good way of posting updates about your availability to a number of people without clogging up inboxes.

3. Work is slipping

The point of flexible working is that the same tasks can be done from anywhere, and that employees can work more efficiently and happily on those tasks, not that they don’t get done. “We’re talking here about taking our eyes off the clock and onto the ‘to-do’ list. Things need to happen. But we have the freedom to work out when they happen,” says Andrews.

4. You have to ask for formal permission

This goes back to the trust issue. Flexible working means that employees are taking responsibility for structuring their day and driving forward projects, so hamstringing them with bureaucracy is hardly helpful. “Flexible working is about empowerment. If I’m meeting commitments, communicating with colleagues and performing as needed, seeking formal permission from a manager should be superfluous.”

5. There’s no give and take

The beauty of flexible working is that you can tailor your work patterns to what works best for you – you might start later than usual one day, but then have a burst of inspiration and work well into the evening on another. As Andrews says:A day that begins flexibly must also end flexibly. If a piece of work needs my attention until seven at night, I don’t expect some kind of reward or specific time-in-lieu – I just know that flexibility works both ways.”

6. It’s becoming combative

Flexible working should be based on trust, autonomy and accountability. Provided that all colleagues are getting the first two, they shouldn’t get jumpy about the third. So, if you’re getting worried about the rate of progress in a project or if you need someone to be present in the office for a specific reason, it’s absolutely fine to bring it up. So long as you’re not being overly confrontational about it, employees should be “cool – not defensive – about having that conversation”.

7. Documenting hours for no good reason

There are some situations in which a formal account of hours spent on a project is necessary, for example when it comes to billing clients for the hours they’ve paid for. But otherwise, if you’re focussing on the number of hours spent on a project, rather than the results or quality of the work produced, you’re missing the point of flexiworking. “I’ve found myself in workplaces where highly-paid, deeply responsible professionals spent time filling in purely internal timesheets, accounting for each day’s work,” says Andrews. “What a chore! Let’s use these well-paid brains for something more meaningful than form-filling.”