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Startups and implementing Flexible Working

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by Startacus Admin

Today’s guest post is all about how startups and small businesses can manage workforces that don’t want to do the traditional Monday to Friday, nine to five. I’m going to look very quickly at the types of flexible working options available, why you might want to consider them and how to manage flexible workforces.

flexible working for startups

What is flexible working?

Flexible working is basically any type of work that is not Monday to Friday, nine to five. That can be compressed hours, reduced hours, term time, part time or job share and there are also annualised hours. There are lots of great benefits for companies, especially startups, to allow people to do flexible working, and I’ll run through some now.

The first thing is retention. It’s pretty easy to retain people if you have some form of flexible working. There are 14.1 million in the people in the UK who cite flexible working as one of the top job perks and benefits they look for in a role, and if as an organisation you offer that, then you’re onto a winner.

It also helps to raise production levels if somebody’s doing some kind of flexible working where they don’t have to be in the office all the time. They’re reducing their commuting time and they can maximise their actual work time as well. It’s a great recruitment tool and it demonstrates trust, because if you get this right, you can show that you trust them to do their work, even if they’re not in the office. It shows initiative because it shows that you’re a forward thinking company, that you’re not stuck in the Monday to Friday, nine to five box, and that you basically are opening up your company to a wider variety of people.

It also challenges that stereotype of being present, that idea that the only way that you know that people are working is if you can see them in their cubicle right in front of you. Actually with the way that technology is today, it’s entirely possible to manage remote teams and remote workers without them having to be there physically.

flexible working for startups

How do you implement flexible working?

The first thing you should do is have a flexible working policy and plan in place. The important thing is to know how it’s going to work, especially if you allow people to work from home, if they very rarely come into the office or they work reduced hours. You need to be clear on what the core working hours are or the times you need to be able to contact them. You need to be clear on what method of communication you’re going to use, so whether it’s Skype, email, instant messenger or phone, and you need to be clear about how you’re going to monitor their work and productivity. You might use something like Basecamp or Trello to do this.

Employees need to have a certain set up at home if they’re remote working, and also you obviously need to have the IT and internet infrastructure for them to be able to access the networks and be able to communicate. It’s basic common sense stuff, so if you’re going to offer flexible working, not only do you need to be clear on what you offer, but also how it’s actually going to work.

So who might want flexible working?

Parents usually do as childcare is expensive and they want to have some time to spend with their families. There’s a good chance that they’re going to want some kind of flexibility, whether it’s to work fewer days a week, to work compressed hours or to start early or later to do pick-ups and drop-offs.

flexible working for startups

In addition to your flexible working policy, be clear on your maternity policy and your shared parental leave policy as well. Obviously raising children is not just a woman’s role, dads want to be involved too, and are looking for employers to make that push so that they can ask for the support that they need and the time off they need.  So even if nobody’s asked for shared parental leave yet, you should have a policy so that when the time comes, your employees are confident that you have thought about this and considered this.

Like with all policies, have a clear line of communication.

  • Who’s responsible for drafting it, writing it, updating it and communicating it?

  • Where is it being kept?

  • Is it on your intranet?

  • Is it in the employee handbook?

  • How do you let people know where it is and what’s in it as well?

When you’re trying to work out flexible working for anyone, it’s important to be honest about what’s working and what isn’t. It’s okay to have trial periods and to say it isn’t working as long as you can give good business reasons, but you should then be open to alternatives. It’s supposed to be a dialogue and discussion and it’s not a case of one employer versus employee. If you’re looking to manage people that don’t want to do nine to five, there needs to be flexibility from both sides of the camp.

flexible working for startups

Trust and flexibility

Another thing to think about is what kind of trust benefits or extra benefits you would give parents. Would you be prepared to give emergency childcare days? Can they take unpaid leave? Can you offer remote working? It’s all about trust and flexibility. If you are managing people or teams that are not in the office every day or not in the office nine to five, but they’re still expected to do work, you need to show that trust and flexibility. You trust them to do their job even though you can’t physically see them, and you will allow them the flexibility to be able to do their work in a timeframe that suits them.

That degree of flexibility is absolutely priceless for those of you that are managing working parents. Having that in place is a really good way for you to show your workforce that you are committed to managing them in a fair way, whatever their working pattern.

You have to be very clear on what your business needs are, but there are lots of ways that people can be productive without having to do the Monday to Friday, nine to five. So that’s just a few tips on a few of the things that you, as a manager, need to be able to do when you’re managing flexible workers or remote workers.

  • Setting specific boundaries for you as an employer and for your employees.

  • Having clear policies and lines of communications about what the policy says and how it works.

  • It’s about being open and having honest discussions about what is working, what isn’t working, why that is and coming up with new ways to make it work.

Michelle Gyimah Bio

Michelle Gyimah is a HR Consultant with over 10 years’ experience of working on equality issues in the workplace.

She worked for the Equality and Human Rights Commission for 8 years before going freelance in 2014. There she specialised in writing guidance for employers and delivering training seminars on equal pay and pregnancy and maternity discrimination. She holds a Masters in Human Rights from The University of Manchester.

Michelle is a regular contributor to numerous business magazines and lives in Manchester, UK.

Twitter: @equalitypays

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Published on: 22nd March 2016

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