Our tips for flexible working
We know that flexible working can work, and some organisations have been doing it successfully for a long time already. Richard Branson wrote in his 2013 blog “we like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they [are] at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.”
It has been two years since the right to request flexible working came into force. Over 8 million people in the UK now work flexibly, including three members of The Juniper Co. team. Cathy Marinacci, our Learning and Development Specialist, works four days a week, two of those from home. I, myself, work five days a week in the office.
Together we explored the biggest challenges we face as a team whilst working flexibly:
- Keeping the team up-to-date of what you’re working on
- Knowing what everyone else is doing
- Planning for the coming weeks
So we decided to come up with a list of 5 things to consider when working flexibly.
1. Communication styles
As a team, we have learnt the value of communicating with one another throughout the week. We have implemented Skype for Business to ensure our flexible workers can easily stay in touch when working from home. Find a method of communication that works for you – preferably face-to-face.
Most importantly, if you need contribution from another team member or are working on a project and won’t be in the office again until after delivery, ensure you communicate with the rest of your project team. Clear handovers prevent tasks falling through the cracks and something being missed because responsibilities weren’t clearly outlined.
2. Team priorities
As individuals, we have our own priorities for the working week and subsequent weeks. It may be 13:30 and you’re leaving at 14:30, but still need to talk to a colleague about a client project. Do you know the priorities of the others working in your team and if they may need to spend time on something different? Could your priority wait until your next working day?
We’ve found it helpful to have these conversations at the beginning of each day. Based on when each team member will next be in the office and project deadlines, we can then determine team priorities for the day.
3. Working hours
This one may be obvious, but consider the impact working hours have on those you work with. When scheduling a meeting with a colleague on the first day of their working week, allow time for them to catch up with what they may have missed since their last day in the office. On the flip side, if you work flexibly, ensure you use this time to catch up with emails before any meetings begin to a) prevent repetition in internal meetings and b) to be fully prepared for any client meeting.
4. Working styles
Personally, I prefer to have updates written down and sent to me via email so I can add them to my ‘to do’ list whilst Cathy prefers an open conversation with the team when she starts her working week. Since sitting down and discussing our personal communication preferences, we have managed to establish a working rhythm that works for everyone.
5. One day in the office together
Different commitments don’t always allow for this, but when you’re considering remote-working hours, do try and find just one day a week when everyone will be in the office. Nothing quite replaces that all important face-to-face time, which allows for “by the way” conversations and relationship-building, too. If once a week is too much of an ask, how about once a month?
Incidentally, since we started thinking about the tips for this blog, Cathy has decided that she actually wants to spend more time in the office as that works better for her in terms of her communication and work styles, even on her shorter hours.
So perhaps tip no 6 is to be flexible about being flexible.