Candidates no longer want flexibility – they are starting to demand it. In just a few short years, remote work and flexible scheduling have gone from rare perks to a minimum expectation for many professionals.
As a business or HR leader, flexibility can be a bit nerve-wracking. Coordination, collaboration, and morale can all suffer greatly if you’re not careful – and adapting to change is rarely easy.
If you’re wondering how you can offer flexibility while still maintaining productivity, here are some tips to get you started.
Check out our video on this topic HERE!
Set Aside Time for Meetings and Coworking
Flexible schedules are great, but it’s also important to have everyone available at certain times for meetings, calls, and other real-time communication like messaging.
If your work is even slightly collaborative, it can be difficult to have team members working completely opposite schedules. Asynchronous work can make it hard for people to get prompt answers to questions, which can easily lead to delays or rushed work.
If there’s a crunch time or a period where your team needs to be highly engaged with each other, schedule some core working hours. For example, you can request that everyone works from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. eastern and can finish their 40 hours at any other time. This gives you four hours for not only meetings, but effective back-and-forth communication.
Alternatively, you can schedule one week a month where team members must work a consistent schedule. The point is to make sure there is some time in your team’s asynchronous schedule for coordination, communication and ideally some face time on video!
Learn Your Team Members and Their Unique Needs
Some employees thrive on remote work and the independence it offers. They deliver amazing results because it naturally fits their work style.
But that’s certainly not everyone.
Others will struggle and need extra guidance, direction or check-ins.
Do your best to get to know your people and their natural workstyles, including what support they do (or don’t) need in a remote, flexible working environment. Ask questions about how you can best support your team.
Check-in often if you’re not sure – and ask team members if the check-ins are helpful or feel unnecessary.
Spend time with your team members through 1:1 conversations to learn how they work, what drives them, and get to know their personality.
Pay attention to when people are the most productive and leverage that when assigning work.
The best tool you can use here is video calls. With text or voice calls, you miss out on a lot of body language that can help you understand how someone is feeling.
Clarity is King
One of the biggest mistakes leaders make around flexible working arrangements is not setting clear expectations.
What does productivity look like? What results are you expecting – and when are you expecting them? Be as specific as possible.
You and your team should have a crystal-clear understanding of what is expected of them and when it’s expected.
If you don’t set clear expectations from the get-go, it’s easy to find yourself in a situation where a team member believes they’re performing well – but they’re not delivering the right results.
These situations are awkward, frustrating, and can lead to poor business results – but can be easily prevented with open communication.
If you want your team to deliver X, communicate that upfront!
Rethink Team Dynamics
Just because a certain type or size of team worked well in a traditional working environment doesn’t mean it’s the best approach for a remote team with flexible scheduling.
Smaller teams often work better in these environments. With fewer team members, they are more flexible, agile and adaptable. Furthermore, coordinating a small group of asynchronous workers is a lot easier than coordinating a large group.
With fewer people on the team, there’s less room for tasks to fall through the cracks, which is all too easy when a large group is working on varied schedules.
Overall, take a good look at how you structure your teams and consider making modifications to meet different work environments.
Leverage Tools to Share Information Fast
If you’re all in the office, it’s easy to share quick updates. When your team is scattered across the country or globe, this gets a little harder. Look into project management tools and other platforms for real-time updates, answers and changes to projects.
You need to be thinking about more than just project status updates as well. With remote work and flexible scheduling, you can easily go days without talking to certain coworkers. This can unfortunately lead to a lot of gossip, hearsay and rumors, especially when you’re dealing with a sensitive situation like a struggling project, or a team member being let go.
The best thing to do here is get ahead of the rumors with open, honest communication. If you can’t have a live video call with all team members, I recommend leveraging video so that everyone can hear a recorded message on the topic. The more information you provide upfront, the less gossip happens, which also means people have less anxiety and are more productive.
Flexibility Can Drive Productivity – If You Do it Right
While flexibility is often seen as a threat to productivity, it can actually make your teams more productive too. Flexible schedules means team members can work when they feel most energized and awake. They also tend to have higher morale because it makes it easier to accommodate other priorities in their lives, like spending time outdoors in the sun or getting quality time with family.
However, you have to cover your bases and make sure people are still collaborating effectively. If you do that, you may just be surprised how effective your flexible remote teams can be!