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Designing flexible working strategies that meet multi-stakeholder goals

Flexible working is on the rise, as employees seek greater autonomy over when and where they work.

However, implementing effective flexible working practices successfully requires careful balancing of three main stakeholder groups and their needs.

Employees want autonomy, managers want predictability and leaders want growth.

Satisfying these needs whilst aligning to organisational objectives continues to be one of business leaders’ greatest challenges.


Conflicting perspectives on flexible work

Employees are drawn to flexible working arrangements because they allow for greater control over scheduling and location.

Yet, From Another’s research shows that 57% of working parents say flexible working arrangements are inadequate.

With flexibilities such as remote work, compressed schedules, and flexible hours, employees can more easily manage their work and personal lives.

This increased autonomy leads to higher job satisfaction, engagement, and retention.

However, managers can find flexible working challenging. With employees working varied schedules and in dispersed locations, managers have less visibility and predictability.

This makes it difficult to monitor performance, collaborate effectively, and ensure consistent productivity.

How flexible working transformed a care provider's retention strategy

From Another’s research shows that managers need upskilling in navigating this change plus 55% say that flexible work is available to employees at different levels within their organisation, impacting equity and trust.

At the organisational level, the benefits of flexible working come from being able to attract and retain top talent.

However, organisations care most about delivering growth, increasing productivity and meeting strategic objectives.

Concerns lie around allowing too much autonomy which could lead to misalignment between employee activities and organisational goals.


Creating frictionless flexibility

Implementing flexible working successfully means addressing these three perspectives proactively.

Employees should be given as much autonomy as possible, while ensuring they have clear direction and stay connected to team and organisational objectives.

Managers need support and training to lead remote and dispersed teams, focusing on results rather than face time.

And organisations should set flexible working policies that provide guardrails to ensure alignment.

Balance is the key – employees shouldn’t have complete freedom to work however they want, just as managers shouldn’t try to maintain the same level of control as in a traditional office.

The importance of psychological safety

A mindset shift is required, where managers learn to evaluate performance based on outcomes rather than observation. They need to set clear expectations, while allowing employees flexibility in how work gets done.

With the right policies and culture in place, flexible working can benefit all three stakeholders.

However, it does require managers, in particular, to develop new skills around remote leadership, asynchronous collaboration, and managing by objectives.

Investment in management training is also crucial for organisations to realise the growth and innovation that flexible working enables.

Skills development programmes can enable businesses and individuals to have conversations that build trust, navigate uncertainty and reset ways of working - delivering in-year, bottom-line savings and a competitive edge in the global race for talent and contracts.

Work/life balance is not achievable, instead aim for work/life fluidity 

 Embracing the future of work

The future of work will no doubt be flexible. Organisations that align employee autonomy, manager predictability, and organisational growth will be ready to unlock the many benefits.

But it takes a concerted effort to find that alignment.

With willingness to evolve mindsets and management capabilities, HR can usher in a new era where flexible working provides satisfaction, productivity and competitive advantage.

The key foundation for successful flexible working is to drive this culture change from the top down. This means leading by example in embracing flexible working, while setting clear policies and expectations.

It’s equally important to invest in upskilling managers to effectively lead flexible teams. And widely communicating the benefits of flexible working for attracting talent, business continuity, and dynamic innovation will support the entire organisation.

Jess Lancashire, CEO and founder of From Another