PositivePeople June 19, 2020 No Comments

Flexible Working Arrangements

Making Flexibility Work for Your Business

Are some of your team reluctant to return to the office full time or even at all? You aren’t alone.

We have been fielding a number of queries from clients who are considering working from home arrangements post-lockdown and trying to work out the best arrangement for their business.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

The reality is that every organisation is different, with varying demands and cultural norms. There will be pros and cons unique to your workplace and structure which you will need to weigh up.

So, what should you consider and is there anything you should avoid? Here are a few steers while navigating this time. 

  1. Firstly, listen to your team and openly engage in the discussion. See this exploration phase as an opportunity to create positive engagement with your team and gain work efficiencies. Even if the final outcome isn’t exactly what people asked for initially, your team will appreciate being treated in a respectful, positive manner.
  2. Consider the future but keep it simple. Whilst you may only have a couple of people asking to work from home now, there are likely to be others who follow. Plan ahead for such requests by clearly identifying the specific roles that might fall into the ‘potential work from home’ category. That way you can treat people fairly and be consistent in managing requests and reviewing success.
  3. Be upfront. Communicate about what you are considering so everyone is in the loop. However, even if a role could be undertaken from home in theory, not everyone will be suited to such an arrangement. It is important to be upfront about that from the beginning and prepared to have those frank, sometimes confronting conversations.
  4. Be clear about your expectations. This might include minimum number of days or specific days you expect people to be in the office e.g. for team/client meetings to keep the connectivity and strong working relationships going, expected methods and frequency of communication in between office days, built-in regular reviews of the arrangement and performance levels.
  5. Don’t be afraid to try things out. Even if you already have a flexible working policy in place, you can still just trial an alternative temporary approach and formally review the policy later on. In the meantime, document any temporary individual arrangements so there is no confusion about what you have agreed.
  6. You will need to consider the practicalities of any home working arrangements to ensure you are meeting your health and safety obligations – here’s a good starting point:  https://positivepeople.co.nz/covid19-guidance-for-employers/covid-19-safe-work-from-home-guidelines/
  7. Also bear in mind that you are required to consider all requests fairly and respond in a timely manner to such requests

It can take a while to get into a rhythm when working from home, so expect a settling in period while you team get used to the new routine. Honest and open communication always helps to bed things in, and after while you will find the approach that works best for you and your team.

If you need help navigating flexible working arrangements, get in touch with us. Positive People have over 25 years experience partnering with small and medium sized businesses. Call us 09 445 1077 or email info@positivepeople.co.nz 

Adjusting to the New Normal

Adjusting to the New Normal

We’ve all learnt a lot through the Covid-19 crisis – and not just about how to make a sourdough starter. For many business owners and managers, it has been a time of reflection on what was working well pre-lockdown and what was already a problem that now needs to be addressed. Aside from the few industries that are suddenly booming, we’ve all realised that it’s time to dig deep and work out how to survive the recession. Below you’ll find some HR opportunities we’ve been thinking about.

 

Realising the benefits of long-term flexible work practices

Flexible work arrangements have a multitude of benefits for employers and employees.

Employer Benefits

  • Reduces absenteeism (as employees can often still work if they are at home with a dependent who is unwell). This assists with productivity with less disruptions to continuity of work
  • Better work-life balance increases employee morale, engagement and commitment
  • Reduces employee turnover
  • Builds your employment brand and attracts top talent
  • Increases your potential candidate pool to people who live in other locations or too far away to consider a daily commute
  • The opportunity to reduce your office footprint and associated costs

Employee Benefits

  • Reduces the time required to commute and the expense of petrol and parking
  • Better flexibility to meet family and personal needs
  • Increased control of work schedule and environment
  • Ability to work at times of highest energy and not during troughs – for example, starting early when energy levels are highest, and then having a longer break in order to exercise to re-energise

Flexible work practices can also make a positive contribution to environmental sustainability.

However, to make flexible working arrangements work for your business, you must look to overcome some of the disadvantages:

  • Employees who do not work well without supervision. It’s always important to set clear goals and expectations. If the employee cannot meet these working from home, this must be addressed. If the problem is ongoing, then it’s time to review the arrangement. Flexible working arrangements are largely a ‘privilege’ and not contractual, so going back to a traditional model is appropriate if it’s not working for either party.
  • Where the role is client-facing, client availability and relationships may suffer from the employee trying to compress their time in the office. Again, this is something to be addressed and discussed – this may include clear goals for client-facing time to ensure it doesn’t drop off. It’s not practical for all office-based roles to include work from home or flexible hours, however, this it can usually be accommodated to some degree. It’s about finding the ‘sweet spot’ that works for the employee and the business.
  • Feelings of unfairness when some roles are able to work from home or choose their hours and others cannot. This is probably one of the most difficult issues to address. Consider what benefits you could implement for onsite staff to help offset these feelings. For example, a well-stocked kitchen, or an upgrade to the coffee machine. Where work from home isn’t possible, consider if flexible start and finish times are. You may wish to also consider an additional benefit for 100% on-site based staff only (be careful to communicate to the team that this is to offset the travel time that flexible workers gain through working from home some days).
  • Health and safety concerns. If working from home is going to be a long-term and regular arrangement, you must be satisfied that the employee is doing so safely. You can review our guidelines for Safe Work from Home here 

 

Reducing cost and saving time through virtual meetings and other tech solutions

Video conferencing has been around a long time, but the use of video calling and virtual meetings for team meetings, training and recruitment seems to have taken a lot longer to gain momentum than perhaps we might have thought.

Why? Maybe it’s the belief that the human connection can only be fully achieved face-to-face. This is still true, but if lockdown has taught us anything it is that far more can be achieved via video calls than we ever thought possible.

As we all look to cut costs wherever possible, now is the time to re-look at all of your normal practices that require people to travel from one location to another (even if that is within the same city) and consider if that can’t be achieved through video call or another on-line solution to reduce time and cost.

 

Updating and streamlining your other processes and systems

Following on from the above, we must all examine where else we can streamline and improve our processes and systems. Get your employees involved in looking for more efficient and effective solutions to literally everything you do. Incentivise this focus on continuous improvement where possible.

Look at your organisational structure. If you’ve had reductions in employee numbers or needed to pivot your business and offering, does your current structure still make sense or does it need to change? Look at the functional responsibilities of roles and teams and re-organise where necessary.

Where changes to work practices interact with your employee policies, ensure that these are updated to reflect your new ways of working. For example, many businesses will need to update:

  • Flexible working policies that may have previously stated that working from home was to only take place on occasion and with express management permission.
  • Expense policies may need to be tightened
  • Travel policies temporarily updated to mandate that essential travel only is to take place and cost-reduction measures are implemented (e.g. lower budgets for accommodation, rental cars etc.)
  • Health and Safety policies will have temporary changes and a ‘Covid-19’ specific policy created with clear guidelines and expectations

 

Capture those Culture gains

If you’ve ever watched Survivor, you know that in times of adversity, groups of people can go one of two ways – we either thrive and come together or we fall apart and turn against each other. During the Covid-19 crisis you may have some employee behaviour from both camps and any divisions need to be addressed.

Whether you are looking to nurture those Company Culture gains or need to start to re-build, we have some ideas for you here

 

Employee development – why it is more important than ever

Many businesses are unfortunately in the position of needing to reduce hours, pay or carry out redundancies. This can have a very negative effect on productivity and reduce the trust within your work environment. One way that you can look to re-build this is through investing in employee development. This both demonstrates the value you place on your employees while also benefiting your business through increased productivity and performance.

Employee development does not need to be a costly exercise. Some ideas include:

  • Online and virtual learning options – on-line seminars and short courses, virtual conferences, TED talks
  • Coaching and mentoring – either an internal program (informal or formal) or involving external contacts
  • Increased one-on-ones and performance appraisals. Getting more disciplined in your focus on setting objectives and monitoring progress against these costs nothing. In return, it will deliver results to both the employees development and your bottom line
  • Give learning lunches a try – these can also be virtual. Use an external speaker (again, virtual may be a cost-effective option) or simply have employees share information and learnings from projects they’re working on. If an employee attends a seminar, have them share the knowledge with the team and distribute their notes and reference material

 

Positive People have been working with and helping to grow SME’s for 25 years. We have the experience and systems to guide, support and provide customised HR solutions for you.  We deliver a range of services across the full HR Management spectrum. Our services are tailored to meet the particular needs of your business and we take the time to get to know you and your business. Call us on 09 445 1077 or email info@positivepeople.co.nz