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Avoid the back to work battle: Keep employees on track with flexible working

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TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady has suggested that businesses should consider allowing employees to watch the top Olympic events from home or in the office. Her argument is that companies should let staff start early or later in order to cut absenteeism and raise productivity.

Whilst this view was decried by some business leaders, the most astute businesses will have recognised the long-term benefits of encouraging this type of flexible working, which worked well for many organisations during the London 2012 Games.

Occasions such as the Olympics offer businesses the opportunity to demonstrate an innovative approach and keen consideration for their employees’ work/life balance.

Changing work expectations

Work is increasingly becoming a thing we do, and not a place we go. A combination of changing expectations from the workforce and advances in technology now means that employees do not physically have to be in the office to fulfil their responsibilities. For example, cutting out travel time to and from the office can greatly improve job satisfaction.

As the world of work continues to change, the pioneering companies that embrace flexible working, particularly during events that capture the public’s imagination such as the Olympic Games, are likely to have happier and more productive employees.

A recent Vodafone survey of 8,000 employees in ten countries revealed that 83 per cent of respondents said adopting flexible working had resulted in improvements in productivity. The key for businesses implementing these policies is to ensure that employees are equipped with the tools they need to be able to work remotely whilst not sacrificing productivity and motivation.

Driving this change in employee expectations has been the advancement in technology that enables a seamless flexible and remote working experience.

Technology such as high speed broadband, enterprise social networks and video communication mean that it is less vital for employees to be in the office to complete tasks.

Tech-savvy millennials in particular will expect an option to work from home, provided that the business can offer the necessary tools to accomplish this. This requires organisations to upcycle the technology they have to drive this new way of working.

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Recruitment, retention and engagement

Without doing this, businesses may struggle to attract the kind of innovative workers they should want. A recent survey of 3,000 employees by Regus revealed that more than nine in ten respondents, given a choice of two similar jobs, would choose the one that offered more flexible working options.

As this becomes a key consideration for recruitment, businesses will be compelled to factor such initiatives in order to attract and retain the best and brightest talent. Remote and flexible working is now seen as key for businesses looking to recruit employees who are increasingly placing greater stock in their work-life balance.

As with attracting staff, flexible working also improves engagement and can help with retention. Critically, the issue of flexible working is also a question of trust between employee and employer. Do you trust your staff enough to accept that they will get the job done, even if away from the office and your watchful gaze?

This issue of trust can be crucial for employee job satisfaction; staff feeling untrusted will be more likely to become disenchanted with their role. Again, technology can play a vital role here.

For example, the ability to jump on a video call has the power to bring the human factor to collaboration between colleagues, customers and prospects, ensuring business relationships remain strong and employees can collaborate in real-time when they are away from the office.

Employee engagement has never been more important for business success than it is today. Allowing employees to take these short breaks to catch their favourite events during the Olympic Games goes a long way towards making staff feel appreciated.

Those businesses embracing flexible working policies are placing themselves at the vanguard of the new world of work. Rather than fear this trend, businesses must embrace and innovate to encourage flexible working as a driver for employee engagement and, consequently, productivity.

James Campanini is VP & GM EMEA at BlueJeans

We were given a behind the scenes tour to explore the magic of a US toy inventor’s workshop, one that has operated for 30 years, and found out the structure in place could provide some great inspiration when creating a workplace culture.

Image: Shutterstock

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