Guide: Tips on how to transform your business by adopting flexible working

working on a train

Businesses are recognising the need to work smarter and do more with less by embracing new ways of working. It’s no surprise then that, as part of this shift, estimates by the Citrix Global Workshifting Index show that by the end of 2013 an overwhelming 93 per cent of organisations will offer some kind of flexible work policy.

In developing a strategy that’s right for you, Andrew Millard, senior director marketing, EMEA, SaaS division at Citrix suggests the following tips will help create an environment in which your staff can conduct business globally, whether connecting from home, a train or a cafe:

Get the management team on-board
Realistically, no new company-wide policy will be successful without buy-in at a senior level. For this reason, prior to any steps being taken, it’s important that the potential advantages for the business are recognised and discussed. Aside from improving an individual’s work-life balance, one of the most important benefits flexible working offers is the opportunity to operate more cost-efficiently with no loss of productivity, in some instances significantly reducing office and travel costs

Discuss the trust issue upfront
Probably the most consistent barrier to flexible working requests being granted are long-standing management concerns around the inability to manage remote employees as effectively as when they are in the same location. For this reason, line managers need to overcome fears about loss of control and find ways to adjust to new ways of working. This may include revised productivity measures or the use of remote working technologies that give visibility of the output of staff working remotely

Define clear goals and deadlines
Rather than having daily targets, putting weekly or monthly productivity goals in place is a constructive way to move away from surveillance and control towards trust and result-oriented work. These outputs should be guided the number of contractually-agreed working hours for each employee

Provide the right tools for remote workers
A remote working policy is only as strong as the tools that can actually make it happen. To achieve this, companies need to wholly integrate remote employees into their business processes using collaboration, support and training tools to overcome distances

Make the most of BYOD and Software as a Service (SaaS) to cut IT costs
Overwhelmingly, demand for mobile technologies has been consumer-led, with many of today’s professionals already upgrading and using their preferred smartphones and tablets. As part of the shift towards flexible working, offering support to employee owned devices can help cut down on hardware costs. From a budget perspective, using software delivered as a service is also ideal for both large and small businesses, as upfront costs are minimised. The IT burden is also reduced as there is no need for in-house maintenance

Collaborate anywhere, instantly and effectively
Distance should not be a barrier to important face-to-face meetings. Similarly, just because they aren’t in the office doesn’t mean that employees, third-party workers and clients can’t be contacted instantly. Use the right technology tools to build trusted relationships and keep projects on track, without the hassle or expense of travel

Manage IT from a central location
IT support is crucial to support mobile and flexible employees. As such, IT staff need to be able to manage distributed computing devices and mobile endpoint devices from a central location

Engage and retain employees around the globe
Widen the pool of talent and attract and retain the most skilled staff, by providing the tools to be fully operational and effective – wherever they are located. Flexible working is a real draw for many employees and can make a real difference in attracting the best talent

Train smarter, not harder
An effective mobile workforce needs efficient online training that takes away all the problems of travel and site logistics. Here, online training can make it easier to hold training sessions that are low-cost, interactive and personal, with subject experts from any location

Review your strategy
As with any other change to operational policy, it’s important to check how well the strategy is working relatively soon after it has been implemented. A move to flexible working will affect both employees and their managers, so it’s important to address any problems early on and give everyone a chance to have their say.

As these ten top tips highlight, when embarking on the journey to a more agile working culture, businesses need to strike a balance between finding the right strategy, tools and improved business processes in order to develop a productive and successful flexible working environment.