If you had told yourself five years ago that choosing the ideal Zoom background would become part of your daily routine, your first question would probably be: what’s Zoom? The shape of the working world has changed drastically over the past five years, only to be compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which flipped the way we work on its head. Keeping up to date with this rapidly evolving landscape can seem like a never-ending task – especially for SMEs and start-ups where resources may be limited and time restricted. One of the most prominent trends in these discussions is the concept of flexible, hybrid and remote working. In this blog we will explore how SMEs and start-ups can get started with flexible working and whether it could be right for you.
Assessing and Understanding Your Team
Before diving into the different working arrangements, it’s important to understand some of the terms used more carefully.
We asked our HR partner, Katie Elliott of HR Katie, to run through what these key terms mean. Katie said “There can sometimes be a bit of confusion about the term flexible working, as it can be an employers willingness to apply a flexible working pattern. It can also be a formal Flexible Working request. Ironically, a formal Flexible Working Request is unlikely to be that flexible, and will often mean they are requesting a permanent change to their current contract of employment, like shorter hours or less days. The much used “hybrid working” means there is an ability to work from both home and the office, whereas fully remote working would mean never needing to come in to the office for face to face days.”
When looking at the various options available, as an employer, you will need to assess the nature of the work and understand your employees' roles. Identify tasks that can be done remotely without compromising productivity. For instance, administrative roles such as scheduling may be able to be completed remotely. Once you have this list, assess whether you have enough to start to make a transition over to more flexible working arrangements.
Making Sure Communication Remains Strong
For effective flexible and hybrid working, communication is key. Ensure that you have tried and tested different communication tools and established clear channels for collaboration. Regular check-ins, virtual meetings, and project management platforms can help maintain connectivity among team members despite a change in structure. And remember, what works for one team, may not work for another, so keep your eyes out for different methods from Slack to different WhatsApp groups.
Defining Expectations and Guidelines
The last thing we want is for people to suspect others of not pulling their weight away from prying eyes. To avoid losing trust in your team, clearly outline expectations regarding work hours, deadlines, and communication norms. Having well-defined guidelines and expected deliverables ensures that everyone is on the same page, reducing ambiguity and potential conflicts.
While flexibility is key, it is also vital that you can establish some boundaries to maintain a balance. This could include core working hours for meetings or specific days when team members are expected to be available to avoid any impact on your team’s potential for collaboration.
Provide Training and Support
Although to some it may seem obvious, you never know which members of your team will feel uncomfortable with some of the flexible work tools. Make sure that you offer training sessions on remote work best practices and the use of collaboration tools so that employees feel supported and equipped to navigate the challenges of flexible and hybrid workweeks.
Legal and Compliance Considerations
Before jumping headfirst with anything however, it is vital that you familiarise yourself with employment laws and regulations related to flexible work. You must ensure that your policies align with legal requirements and address issues such as overtime, compensation, and data security.
Ultimately, for all SMEs and start-ups, flexible working will look different, and if it is not something you feel your organisation is ready to tackle – that’s okay too. By incorporating these practical tips and considerations into your strategies, your organisation can fully consider the potential of flexible work arrangements, and how you plan to address he ever-evolving demands of the modern working world.