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The benefits of flexible working

Robert Gorby, marketing director at Powwownow, on how to make flexible working benefit your start-up

Technology is becoming more ingrained in our working lives and start-ups should be prepared to take advantage of this trend by engaging with new flexible working trends. The days of having to be bound by the drudgery of office working and commuting are gone. Technology means that business owners and employees can stay in touch with colleagues, suppliers and customers all around the world and this is a huge benefit.

The continual enhancements of smartphones, tablets, high speed broadband and Wi-Fi allows people to be on the go 24/7 and choose their working patterns to fit in with their lives. This is of great importance to start-ups who won’t necessarily have accumulated the funds to rent out permanent office space. Technology can help to allow contributions from a range of experts who you may not yet be able to employ full time.

Workers can contribute and interact from remote locations whilst still presenting themselves as a united front. Ideas can be shared and pushed forward from remote locations meaning start-ups can benefit from contributions from a scattered selection of skilled individuals without necessarily having to pay for them to all physically convene in one place. 

The ability to be able to run a successful business with staff based on the merit of talent, not on geography or convenience, is a revelation for the business world and especially business owners. There is no longer the necessity for expensive hardware or dedicated conference rooms so start-ups can form their networks across a broader area right from the start. 

Establishing a start-up can feel like pushing a boulder up a hill and the workload is relentless. Having the capacity to work on the go means that people can be more productive. It makes practical business sense and travel time is no longer wasted time. The TUC has recently reported that British workers spend an average of 200 hours per year commuting. It is obvious that this time could be used more beneficially when you are competing to make your start-up the one that succeeds.

People are looking for different ways to collaborate with each other as they look to save money and time and start to work smarter not longer. Flexible working can be utilised to meet customer demands early on when they may be fairly sporadic. Extended working hours can be arranged to accommodate customer peaks and troughs before a regular pattern has been achieved.

Management techniques may have to be changed to fit in with the flexible working dynamic. For example; employees will no longer be able to measure their progress against their colleagues in the same way. It would be beneficial to focus instead on KPIs. Less time is wasted on office politics and instead employees focus on their own personal development.

To ensure productivity remains high you must also maintain constant levels of interaction so everyone knows exactly what they are doing and tasks don’t fall down. This may involve having a conference call for all staff in the morning and arranging further catch ups on specific targets later in the day.

Replacing the traditional work place structure with something more fluid can free up a lot of time and prevent clock watching. Getting things done is the focus instead of simply being in the office for a set amount of time.

People work harder and better if they feel they are able to fulfill their duties both at work and home. If a person is suffering from guilt at spending time away from their families or missing one too many a significant day on the family calendar they will begin to feel demotivated at work.  Avoiding feelings of demotivation can have financial benefits by cutting absenteeism. 

Each individual works in their own unique way and this is something that more studies are revealing we have to cater for. People are not machines and if they are treated as such they begin to feel run down. Enforcing a strict, one size fits all routine can be detrimental. 

It is expected that the right to request flexible working will be extended in June for those who have been with their employer for 26 weeks or more. Once this change in regulation is introduced, flexible or alternative styles of working may become the norm. This will include working part time, flexi-time, working compressed hours -  working contracted weekly hours in fewer longer working days - and working from home or from a local ‘third place’ for some or all of the week. Start-ups should start catering for this or they will struggle to catch-up later. 

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