No matter what kind of small business you’re running, when it comes to hiring employees, you understandably want the best of the best. But what can you offer that will have them running to your door and eager to stay? The answer is easy; flexible working.
Over the past few years, thanks to backing from the Government and an increased interest in mental health within the workplace, flexible working has become the biggest perk an organisation, of any size, can offer to attract and retain employees. After all, what employee wouldn’t jump at the chance to work from home and to avoid the dreaded rush hour commute each day?
But while the larger organisations are embracing flexible working, research by the Smarter Working Initiative has found that smaller businesses are more nervous of this new approach. Unfortunately, this means that they are missing out on the additional benefits that flexible working can bring, from increased motivation to a reduction in sick days.
So, if you want to delve into the world of flexible working but feel anxious about managing such a big transition for your SME, we’ve got you covered. Here are our top tips for making flexible working work for your small business and your employees, so everyone is happy at work.
Agree on a schedule
We all have lives outside of work and sometimes the standard 9-5 working day can make maintaining a healthy work/life balance difficult. One way of making life easier and a lot happier for your employees is by giving them the opportunity to choose a work schedule that better suits their lifestyle.
For instance, if your employees have children who need picking up from school, consider letting them leave the office an hour or two early to get them. They can then work a longer day the next day or work from home on the evening to make up the time. This can also work for employees who have regular doctor’s appointments or who have to commute long distances to and from the office.
Another option is to set how many hours a week you want your employees to work, but give them the option to choose how this is broken up. So instead of working for five days out of the week, they might choose to work longer hours for four days and then have a longer weekend.
Understandably, this will need some management on your part. The last thing you want is for everyone to choose the same hours not to work and to leave you swamped with work and emails. The best way to get your employees to agree to a schedule where you can find a happy medium between the hours that work best for them and the hours that work best for your SME.
Determine the location
If you don’t think you can compromise on working hours, why not offer your employees the option of working from an alternative location for a few days out of the week. They would just complete their work from home, rather than travelling to the office. Depending on their role and the needs of your small business, this could be every day of the week or just a select few days for meetings, client visits or workshops.
This can also be a convenient option to have in place on occasions when there’s bad weather or travel incidents preventing them from getting to the office or if they are unwell, but still able to work. It can also make life easier for those employees who live far away, have long-standing medical conditions or complicated family situations.
One of the biggest benefits of offering this type of flexible working is that you can hire from practically anywhere. You might find that the perfect employee for your business works 2,000 miles away. But with the option of flexible working in place, you’re effectively closing that distance.
It’s never wise to assume what’s best for your employees. So make the time to have a conversation with them to see if working from home or a co-working space would make life easier and help them to be more productive in their work. Again, it’s also wise to consider the needs of your business before committing to anything. You can then work towards getting them set up with everything they need to do their work from this alternate location.
Keep in touch
When you and your team are in an office together, a quick meeting or casual chat can determine what everyone is working on for the week. However, if all or some of your employees are out of the office, working at different locations and to different schedules, this can be harder to determine. This is one of the biggest reasons why many small businesses are concerned about flexible working.
For flexible working to work successfully, communication is vital. Thankfully, there are countless ways of managing your team even when you aren’t sat in the same office together. You could try daily phone or video calls or get every to write up a mini email report at the end of each day detailing what they’ve accomplished. Apps, such as Google Hangouts, Quip and TeamWeek, which your whole team can access can also keep everyone in touch at all times, regardless of where they are working. With consistent communication, managing flexible working is a doddle for both you and your team.
We understand that not every small business will be able to offer flexible working to their employees. If your SME requires your employees to use specialist equipment or be client-facing, it might not be the best option. But, SMEs that are in a position to take advantage of flexible working should put their anxieties aside and give it a whirl.