In what felt like a giant social experiment, the pandemic has forced flexible working upon many industries, but the merits of this new way of working have proven the key to success for both companies and employees alike. In fact, according to research in the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience survey, 42% of respondents say flexible working hours helped them achieve more productivity, while 30% of those surveyed said that less or no time commuting allowed them to be more productive.
And working Canadians are on board. According to LifeWorks Inc.’s latest mental-health index, just over a third (38%) said having the option of full flexibility — regarding days, hours and location — for everyone would be the best working model for their team. While nearly a third (29%) of respondents said the most important type of flexibility is having the ability to step away from work to attend to personal issues, followed by hours of work (26%), location of work (24%), days of work (16%) and work attire (2%).
There is much evidence to suggest this ‘new norm’ results in a more engaged workforce who are enthusiastic and energetic about their work. For employees, having flexible arrangements ensures you don’t need to sacrifice your personal life to succeed professionally. Highly engaged workplaces claim fewer quality defects, lower absenteeism, and according to a Gallup study, 21% higher profitability.
That’s not to say it’s all plain sailing, but many businesses are making serious strides. The Microsoft 2022 Work Trend Index Annual Report offers practical suggestions to make flexible work more sustainable. According to Mary Czerwinski and Shamsi Iqbal, two Microsoft researchers with decades of experience between them studying productivity, focus and wellbeing, simple adjustments to meetings and email etiquette can make a big difference.
Here’s how to tackle some of the bigger issues facing flexible workers…
1. Too many meetings
- Make it a team practice to ask, “Could we cover this in email or chat instead?
- Look for opportunities to divide and conquer meetings with team members.
- Use the “required” and “optional” lines of meeting invites to help people prioritize their time.
- Block focus time on your calendar for personal productivity and wellbeing and protect it.
- As a team, consider designating certain days or time blocks “meeting-free”.
2. Waning energy or focus due to back-to-back meetings
- Share an agenda ahead of the meeting and assign an owner to each part.
- Create team norms around established breaks between meetings (e.g. start all meetings at five or 10 minutes after the hour).
- Keep meetings as short as possible; if they’re longer than 30 minutes, include a five-minute break.
- Avoid scheduling large, presentation-only meetings in the first hour of the workday when people tend to multitask and catch up on emails and to-dos.
3. Chats or emails from colleagues outside of working hours or during meetings
- Use the delay delivery feature in Outlook for emails outside of established working hours.
- As a team, set expectations on response time to emails and chats sent outside of working hours.
- Use NOT URGENT in the headline of emails or chats when your colleague is in a meeting or it’s outside working hours.
4. Working in different time zones
- Share meeting-related documents ahead of time and ask for comments so participants can review asynchronously.
- Record meetings and share notes with invitees afterwards.
You don’t have to be a big business to implement flexible work options. The above will help to guide you in terms of what best practices can look like. Flexible workplaces are as much about attitude and management culture as it is about formal programs.
Done right, flexible working increases morale, workforce engagement, company loyalty and staff retention, while employers reduce operating costs and increase profits. What could be better than that?
If your workplace is still reluctant to embrace flexible working, it might be time to make a job or career change? Check out our job board to discover an abundance of flexible working opportunities.
By Rosaleen McMeel, Courtesy of Jobbio