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Reality Check: Steps for flexible working success

Vodafone Americas lays out some tips for companies looking to manage flexible working conditions in a high-tech environment

We’re living – and working – in a world at odds. On one hand, workplaces are more flexible than ever, as new generations of workers demand a greater work/life balance and the newest technology to make it possible. On the other hand, technology also has the potential to give companies the means to monitor employees in ways that can cause unease.

So, how do we dull this double-edged sword? The answer is to build trust from both sides. In order to enable a flexible workplace, there must be an effort to cultivate a culture and management style based on trust. That means a company must trust that its employees are mature enough to accept the liberty that is given to them with flexible working. In turn, employees must trust that their employers are not monitoring them constantly or judging them for taking advantage of flexible working.

Flexible work is catching on quickly, with 75% of companies globally introducing some type of flexible working policy, enabling employees to vary hours and work remotely. But, it’s important not to rush into implementing these policies. Companies must have a strategy that builds on an atmosphere of trust. There must also be an effort shift to employees’ perceptions of what good performance truly means – and that is up to each organization to define. If done right, both employees and employers have a lot to gain, including higher morale, increased teamwork and productivity and even increased profitability.

But how do we get there? Here are key steps companies should take to build trust and, in turn, an empowered and productive workforce.

Change management style from the top down

Changing management and leadership style is complicated, but is critical to the success of flexible working. Today, employees don’t necessarily need to present to be present. Colleagues can often find themselves monitoring and judging when people arrive for work, how long they take for lunch or how often they work from home. However, that doesn’t necessarily fit the current working model. As working styles shift, the way we manage employees and measure performance must also shift. For managers, this means communication will have to change and deliverables should be communicated more clearly across remote teams.

Reevaluate performance reviews and expectations

If you want to encourage new behaviors, then you need to put the right performance measures in place. Measuring performance must be based on success in meeting goals, rather than on the number of hours an employee is at their desk. Expectations and goals should be communicated clearly and in writing, and managers must make an effort to provide one-on-one face time (or phone time) with employees to maintain team connection. And, if your employees are currently expected to work from nine to five, then you’ll need to decide on whether their contracts will need to be formally updated to reflect the hours when they should be available by phone and email.

Get the right technology

The technology needed for each company, and even for each type of employee, can vary greatly. To continue building trust with employees, let them tell you which applications they need and to suggest the technologies they prefer to communicate with. These could include virtual private networks, secure Wi-Fi in buildings and outside spaces, providing conference facilities for remote team members or video collaboration tools. In larger organizations, this can be supported with a combination of team workshops, Web surveys or in-depth interviews. From there, you can determine the right mix of infrastructure, applications and communications tools to enable your people to work flexibly. Companies should be wary of using any technology that could be perceived as monitoring or spying on employees – a major breach of trust.

Knowledge will empower employees

You’ll need to be clear with staff about practices for managing their data, using devices securely, and give them health and safety guidance for working remotely. Communicate openly and honestly with people about how to use their technology and access information securely, and ensure robust security measures are also in place if people will be accessing sensitive information on personal devices and laptops. By giving them the confidence that they are using their technology properly, you will empower your workforce to do their jobs to their full potential.

The future of work is here today – and it’s undeniably flexible. However, if companies want to be a part of that future, they’ll have to be strategic about how they build a culture of trust that allows the new generation of flexible workers to thrive.

Editor’s Note: The RCR Wireless News Reality Check section is where C-level executives and advisory firms from across the mobile industry share unique insights and experiences.

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Subject to editorial review and copy edit, RCR Wireless News accepts bylined thought leadership articles, up to 1000 words, from industry executives. Submitted articles become property of RCR Wireless News. Submit articles to [email protected] with "Reality Check" in subject line.

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