Never has there been a better time to take the ‘flex’ leap of faith
Steve Collinson, June 30, 2020
The prospect of moving from an office-based workforce to flexwork can be daunting. It can be a very complex and emotional journey which many of your key stakeholders are likely to have wildly differing opinions about.
The first stage is very much about education from the top to the bottom of your organisation. You really have to win hearts and minds at every level to push this through. The key thing is to work towards a situation whereby everyone enters this process with a positive mind-set.
The implementation process really is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t try to change everything overnight if your business has been doing the same thing in the same way for many years. If you can, approach it in phases and then move to a wider roll out. It’s a more feasible way to shift your business culture to new ways of working.
At Zurich UK, we introduced the concept across the business over a number of years. Running pilot schemes was a great way for us to test the water for all parties and tweak our approach as we went on the journey.
When I pitched this to the leadership team, I made it clear from the start that it wasn’t a traditional business case and I would not be providing a cost benefit analysis.
This is about creating a best place to work, improving employee happiness and motivation and providing the working environment you need to attract top talent in your industry. Some may say these are immeasurable benefits, but they are strongly reflected in absenteeism, staff retention and the overall wellbeing of your team.
Research is key and there’s no stronger business case than using the voice of your employees. If you carry out research to find out what people really want and need, it’s a great way to submit a business case that lacks the more traditional cost saving benefits.
If you don’t have the resource or relevant skillset within your business to deploy this, think about using external expertise. If you work with a consultant who has done this for many other businesses, in effect you can learn from their mistakes. This will make the pilot process far more streamlined.
Trust is always a big discussion when it comes to flexwork. The key thing to remember is that inherently we all want to do the best job we can. By empowering your employees to work at a time and place that works for them, motivation levels will be far higher.
In today’s workplace, the most important thing is for your team to get great results. If you get too hung up on how long it takes them to get there, you can quickly create a toxic working environment. Equally, trust doesn’t mean deploying software to monitor employee activity which can be completely counterproductive.
You’ll always get a few people who may be at a difficult time in their lives or are not at the most engaged point of their career ‘curve’.
They might use this as an opportunity to kick back. It’s really important to manage negative behaviour and try to nip it in the bud before it reaches disciplinary stages. From the outset, I cannot stress enough the importance of having agreed processes in place to deal with these situations in the correct way.
There are many ways to reap the benefits of offering flexwork for your employees. When you’re recruiting it’s a great benefit to offer, and in many ways it gives you access to a whole new talent pool, many of whom are not set up for a two hour a day commute into central London or the traditional 9-5. Recruiting top talent is a challenge for any business.
Now, more than ever before, we’ve all enjoyed flexible working from home and for many it’s been a whole new way of life. This is a great opportunity for employers to take the bull by the horns and build on this great momentum.
Steve Collinson is head of HR at Zurich UK.