Why SMEs should implement truly flexible working

Flexible working has been around for a while in various forms, but here is why I think a truly flexible approach works.

The majority of today’s modern businesses are founded on policies that allow employees to work as efficiently as possible. Mobility is being embraced in a big way and it’s working for many companies.

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD), hot-desking and virtual desktops are just some of the commonplace initiatives in SMEs and enterprises today.

The natural extension to mobility is the implementation of truly flexible working. By loosening the constraints around the traditional working day of nine-to-five, employees can start early, stay late or work from home – fitting working hours into a lifestyle while driving efficiencies within business.

Management teams often approach truly flexible initiatives with trepidation and it’s easy to see why. Without a full complement of occupied desks and a bustling office, it can feel like you’re not in control. It’s then equally easy for doubts to creep in, leaving you questioning how hard your team is working.

But at the very heart of this matter is trust. Getting the job done is obviously by far the most important aspect. However, it makes sense to place trust in your employees to get their workload done in the way that best works for them (and their teams). This can do wonders to lift employee morale and will be incredibly motivating within the business overall.

In my own experience, I have seen this create a whole new degree of diligence and engender a sense of responsibility which can otherwise be hard to find. In a world where business is global – increasingly for SMEs – there are times when you have to work outside the traditional hours. But giving your staff the freedom to manage their own workloads is empowering.

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At Tradeshift, we place a huge value on regular face time between colleagues, but this doesn’t need to be in large chunks. So, my question is: Why force people to be in the office or create an atmosphere where people are scared to leave their desks in case colleagues think they’re not working hard enough?

In this day-and-age there is enough technology at our fingertips such as Skype and Google Hangouts, which mean that staying in touch has never been easier. So why not let your employees work from home or outdoors occasionally? Equally, if they’re an early bird and prove more productive and motivated in the morning, let them come in at 7 am and leave mid-afternoon.

This is something the UK government is certainly keen to encourage. From the end of June, employees that have worked for 26 continuous weeks in a business will have the right to request flexible working from the employer – an extension to the current law. But although employers have a statutory duty to consider applications, they can also reject them, so there is still room to work on this regulation.

In most cases, flexible working is a sure fire way to make sure you’re getting the best productivity from your employees, and at the same time boosting their morale.

So, don’t set a number of hours, but set targets which represent the creation of value for the business.

Christian Lanng

Christian Lanng

Christian Lanng is CEO, chairman and co-founder of Tradeshift, with the lead responsibility of shaping strategy and vision. Founded in 2010, the business is based on his mission to change the way businesses...

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