If you’re thinking about implementing a flexible workplace but not sure where to start, consider taking an inventory of your current work environment. Our clients find that it not only gets them headed toward flexibility, but helps them identify areas of the workplace that needed a tune up anyway.
- How are people structured?
Are they working in teams or is the structure purely hierarchical? Is your current structure optimizing productivity or would a team approach enhance client service and move more projects to completion? Team-based structures generally provide better client coverage and reduce the risk of customer-loss with employee turnover.
- Is technology up to date?
Are you due for upgrades? If you’re going to replace some desktops anyway, switch over to laptops to facilitate work-from-home arrangements. Do you have an enterprise system that requires connection through an Ethernet, or are there web-based meeting and project management tools that could be leveraged outside the office?
- What kinds of people are you hiring?
Self directed employees require less hands-on management and often provide the greatest contributions to the bottom line. If you don’t have a team of self-starters, ask yourself if it’s a hiring issue or a matter of attracting the best candidates. A 2008 study found that flexible employers report less difficulty hiring hardworking self-starters.
- What are you doing to build teams?
Do all of your team building activities require face time? Analyze how you could translate those activities to fit a virtual team or a workplace where people are coming or going at will.
- What is your trust/control philosophy?
If—in your physical space—you trust that everyone will get their work done, then that can easily translate into getting work done in a flexible way. If you don’t trust your people, then flexibility is not going to work. What’s causing you the distrust? Is it the way your leaders have been taught to manage, or is it that you have real performance concerns with certain employees? Either way, these issues affect your physical workplace and must be addressed.
- What performance tools are you using?
Every company needs to be managing for performance. Do your managers understand performance-based management? From job descriptions to review systems and bonus structures, organizations need to reexamine how they reward performance. Each of these is a project in itself, but create the basis for managing flexible work teams down the road..
- How are people communicating?
We see physical workplaces where no one is communicating face-to-face—no one is getting up and walking around. Is sitting in a cubicle any different than sitting in a home office? If employees are IM’ing and emailing when they sit next to eachother at work, how would communication be negatively affected by people working somewhere else?
- Does your culture need an overhaul?
When you look at high performing, forward-thinking companies, they’re doing radically different things with their culture. Consider how those companies would answer the seven questions we just covered. Think about what Google and Best Buy are doing.Then, ask yourself, how are people respected in your organization? What are the baseline values by which your employees and management live and breathe? Do those values allow for “unleashing” employee works styles?
Workplace flexibility doesn’t have to be a separate undertaking. It is part and parcel of leading-edge business practices. By evaluating these best practices—changes you should already be considering for your workplace—you’ll find that workplace flexibility is achievable with small efforts. Take a few steps forward and you’ll see, it’s not a gigantic leap.