It’s looking like the stereotypical 9 to 5 desk job may well be a thing of the past. 82 per cent of British people are now more likely to take a job if it comes with flexible working benefits, making it clear that most of us would jump at the chance to work from our sofa or local coffee shop with irregular working hours.
All of this means that businesses increasingly need to have a good flexible or remote working policy to attract great employees. However, for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), opening employees up to flexible and remote working can cause anxiety. According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the success of businesses of this size hangs on productivity. When the business itself is very much at stake, employers need to have absolute faith that their employees are being as productive as possible when away from the office.
To regain control, and make sure work is being done as efficiently as possible, SMB bosses must support their flexible working strategy with the right technology. This will enhance remote communication, ensuring trust remains between employer and employee and all are working dynamically despite the distance in time or space.
Here are a few key questions for employers to consider when looking to banish the flexible working demons:
Are you checking in?
Checking in with employees isn’t the same as checking up on employees. These days, there are tools available that allow you to non-obtrusively check in, rather than micromanaging from afar every five minutes. The check in ensures that you’re all on the same page when you’re all online – so that you can relax at the end of your 9-5 day when their employees are working flexibly.
Part of any strategy needs to be a discussion with the team about how they would best like to check in so a dependable process is put in place. This could be a daily 10 minute call to discuss workloads, or a voice message system where the voicemails can be converted into email copy and sent directly to inboxes for reading later. Internal social communications may be the answer – whether that’s using Salesforce Chatter, uploading photos from smartphones or Instant Messenger (IM). Either way, using unified communications methods that you are both comfortable with will strengthen trust. There are plenty of options available that mean interactions can (and should) be tailored to your team, leaving you safe in the knowledge that you are receiving the right necessary amount of updates.
Are you still using your voice?
Great as instant messaging is, it’s good to use other communications methods to improve trust and remove anxiety while working flexibly. Best-of-breed video and audio collaboration tools are critical for remote workers, as they keeps the team connected and more visibly part of the office community. Having multimedia tools that include video available in the VoIP phone environment is critical, so that any productivity issues can be solved face-to-face both quickly and seamlessly. Technology now allows teams to collaborate instantly and turn a simple phone call into a group discussion where they can ‘drag and drop’ files.
Using the latest collaboration tools, such as video conferencing, peer-to-peer video and web conferencing, is a great place to start to ensure that all options are open to you when you’re feeling out of touch with employees. The option to escalate calls to video at the click of a button is vital for bosses who may need to resolve issues quickly.
Is your technology integrated?
By integration, this means looking beyond your standard phone and PC combination to allow employees to move between the devices that suit them. These days, employees already own their favourite smartphone or tablet, so you must make sure these are integrated with the existing office phone system — securely, simply and cost effectively.
With all communication running on the same platform, you will remain linked up with employees’ progress, whichever device they chose to use. A good platform will flex for new products and members too – SMBs need to be ready for change to keep their businesses at the cutting edge of the constantly evolving mobile workplace. Either way, engaging through devices that your employees are comfortable with encourages easy communication, dispelling issues that could lead to a trust breakdown. James Humes, who wrote the Apollo 11 landing plaque, once said that “the art of communication is the language of leadership.” SMB bosses can now trust their employees to work in the way that is most comfortable, as long as they ensure that the communication methods are seamless.
Adrian Hipkiss is the VP & managing director EMEA at ShoreTel.