One of the main concerns raised about flexible working is how to manage a team effectively. When everyone was based in the same location it was simpler to arrange group meetings, walk the room, take the temperature and deal with issues face-to-face.
Under the Hybrid working model, teams can be scattered across multiple locations including home, office and third workplaces such as cafes. How do you overcome the uncertainty created by this geographical diversity to build a team that shares the same goals, vision, and attitude? And how do you keep control of the issues, stresses, and concerns individuals typically face?
We have some tips for you.
Create the right culture
The starting point for managing a flexible team is developing a culture that will bring out the best in people. A collaborative culture should give equal respect and value for both working remotely and in the office. In this way, you will avoid any resentment and bias in opinion between employees. Some roles will be more suited to the office and some to working remotely — this should be understood and catered to.
The regular commuter who still heads for the office every day of the week is no better or worse than the individual who chooses to stay at home. Make this plain and reflect it in the outcomes of your performance reviews and promotion choices. Avoid the clichéd thinking that working from home is “easy” and going to the office is “committed.”
Set clear boundaries
Stress levels can quickly build up in teams if they feel the need to work long hours. This is even more acute for home workers who struggle to turn off the computer after a long day. Even when they settle down for the evening it can sit in the corner tempting the individual to check emails or do one last task.
Make sure your team members understand that they are not expected to be on call at all hours. By creating a clear framework for when they can communicate and interact with each other, you are putting a blocker on an unhealthy “always on” working culture. This might even involve an official ban on weekend emails.
Manage by output
There are some managers who believe that people won’t work hard unless they’re in the office under close supervision. Despite all the evidence, this old fashioned view can be hard to overcome. However, there are certain productivity issues that need to be dealt with when using a flexible working approach.
When employees aren’t in the office you can’t rely on traditional visual cues to check to see if they’re motivated and productive. Instead, you need to take a light touch approach that focuses on outputs, while also being sure to give feedback on progress and completion of tasks. This kind of hands-on engagement (where it really counts) will ensure your team feels both valued and trusted. The big advantage is that presenteeism will no longer be a factor in how people are judged, even subconsciously. If you let people manage their own time, even the most diehard manager will be pleasantly surprised by how much work they can get through.
Design the office for flexible work
You want to encourage people to continue meeting face-to-face as appropriate, and highlight the advantages this can bring in terms of creative thinking and making decisions. To achieve this, make sure it’s easy for employees to book desks and meeting rooms so time in the office is as collaborative and motivating as possible.
A mobile app such as the ones developed by Condeco can make everything simpler. whether that’s booking meeting rooms or finding out where people are sitting in order to arrange off-the-cuff meetings.
Remember, your culture does not say that the office is better or worse than working at home. What you should do is make your office an attractive option that gives people a reason to make the commute, and encourages them to build relationships with each other.
Even when you work apart, coming together either virtually or in-person is still crucial to manage a team effectively. Be sure to have regular team meetings, where objectives can be set and employees can discuss how they can collaborate and support each other in generating the best outputs.
As a manager you can also use meetings to articulate your vision, provide encouragement, and also clarify your team members’ roles in delivering against it. Make sure these meetings happen regularly to keep your team in sync (without being so frequent that they become disruptive to people’s routines and ability to get work done).
Build a culture around flexible working
Flexible working is being adopted by more and more businesses because it’s been proven to be effective in creating team cultures that deliver. It may be a slightly scary leap for some managers, but with a strong vision for the culture you want to create and the use of clever technology, it’s a challenge that can be easily overcome.