Since flexible working laws were introduced in the UK back in 2014, millions of employees have taken advantage of the scheme and its many benefits. Companies that have encouraged and embraced the new law have reportedly seen increased levels of engagement and even saved some money in the process.
Businesses approaching flexible working too cautiously, now run the risk of falling behind when it comes to attracting the best talent, as many professionals seeking work expect to at least be given the option of setting their own hours in exchange for their expertise.
But, with the many pluses of flexible working also comes a list of challenges for employers too. Managing a flexible team requires a different approach to that of a standard nine-to-five office, but with a few tweaks, you can work it to your favour and use it as an opportunity to grow your business on a global scale.
After all, with an out-of-hours workforce, you can operate on different time zones and begin chipping away at some untapped markets. So, how do you transform your team into an army of weekend warriors ready to take on the world?
Put together a careful strategy
Careful planning is the key to a successful flexible workforce, as your business could fall flat on its face if managed badly.
Before rolling it out, work out how to integrate it into everyday working life and carry out a trial run using a variety of employees in different departments and roles. This will enable you to foresee any teething issues and iron out the creases before you begin offering this out to the wider business.
In cases where you have team members who are perhaps not suited to flexible hours, you might want to consider offering them alternative incentives to keep them engaged.
Flexible working shouldn’t mean that your employees are expected to work around the clock (certainly not when they are on leave), but you may discover that staff who are given more freedom are more motivated and willing to put in that extra work on evenings and weekends. It’s amazing what a little autonomy can do sometimes.
Don’t forget to ensure your security is first-rate where flexible working is concerned. Laptops and smartphones need to be properly encrypted to ensure confidential data and documents can be recovered should the device be lost or stolen.
One of the problems of having workers out-of-office for large parts of the week is the invisibility factor. Team members who spend a lot of time working from home or other remote locations need to ensure they touch base frequently so that they are not forgotten about and remain in the loop.
For this reason, scheduling regular video conferencing team meetings is a must, as well as regular email contact, to ensure that nobody feels isolated.
Managing a flexible team
A certain amount of trust must be placed upon employees who go flexible, but it is also important to monitor their work and make sure that they don’t slip into any bad habits. This may take up more of your time to begin with, but once they have adjusted to their new work pattern, you can leave them to get on with it.
The best flexible workers will overachieve and hit deadlines ahead of schedule, thus proving the concept works. Rewarding such behaviour from time to time will be greatly appreciated by employees.
Take on the world
Once you’ve overcome any initial stumbling blocks and tweaked your flexible workforce to perfection, you can begin to focus on your global strategy.
Research found that 70% of customers were more likely to purchase products presented with information in their own language, so simply assuming that most people will accept the English language just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.
Add to that the findings of The Economist, which states that 60% of the top 15 emerging global markets speak little or no English and you have a strong case for including more diverse talent in your team.
Make sure your team are sufficiently trained to adapt to any new markets too, as they must be aware of cultural differences as well as any foreign laws which could have an impact on any work carried out.
Having a physical presence in your foreign market is of course favourable, while it also means you have instant access to a much wider talent pool. LinkedIn can be a great way to connect with suitable candidates, or you could seek the help of a specialist recruitment firm to help you find the required talent.
Breaking foreign markets is never an easy task. However, on the same token, it’s never been easier to do – as long as you’re prepared to give up a big chunk of your social life. With advanced technology and the right kind of team, the sky is the limit.
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