The changing nature of work
The prospect of managing teams with flexible working arrangements can be, for some, daunting. Having spent much of the 20th century investing in the maintenance of workplace boundaries –temporal and spatial –it can seem counter intuitive to suggest that it might be best for business if we relaxed those boundaries.
At one time, a manager’s main job was to monitor that employees clocked in and out on time, and your success as a manager was largely measured on this. As our understanding of productivity, value and profit-generation has become more sophisticated we have developed new and more effective ways of working.
Busting the myths
Today, the evidence for the value of flexible work arrangements is considerable, and yet, we find that many workplaces continue to resist such changes to the way they work. Employees, for the most part, embrace such changes, and when given the opportunity, tend to adopt flexible working practices quickly and enthusiastically.
Resistance typically comes from those in management positions, who are fearful that flexible work results in lower productivity. This sentiment is illustrated by the former London Mayor Boris Johnson who jokingly said of working from home: “We all know that (working from home) is basically sitting wondering whether to go down to the fridge to hack off that bit of cheese before checking your emails again”.
This, however, is not borne out by evidence and companies who do adopt flexible working practices generally experience benefits in productivity, employee engagement and even profit. What is more, in a context in which it is becoming harder to attract talent, value propositions that include flexible work are very effective in attracting people.
Overall, the positive impacts of flexible working outweigh the challenges. However, strong leadership is crucial to the success of moving from a culture based on inputs to a high performing organisation focused on outcomes.