Seven practical ways to boost workplace flexibility for your employees

Workplace flexibility has undoubtedly become a prime concern for both employers and staff. Many workers seek more autonomy and freedom to carry out their work without having to follow rigid rules.

A recent EY poll of 1,000 UK workers revealed that 47% would consider changing their jobs if workplace flexibility wasn’t allowed. Consequently, it is prudent to tactfully introduce flexibility into your office environment to keep your workers productive, engaged, and satisfied. If you wish to learn more about making your workplace more flexible, consider the points below.

1) Allow remote working

There is no denying that remote working was around before COVID-19’s onset, but the pandemic is responsible for the worldwide popularity of the practice today. A reported one in three UK workers did some work from home last year as many offices were forced to shut down due to COVID-19.

Although many offices encourage a return to the office, several experts recommend making remote working a permanent part of your workplace’s culture to allow maximum flexibility. Workers say they are more productive at home due to a lack of workplace distractions, so allowing them to work outside the office can help you get the best out of them. Workers also love remote working because they don’t need to commute and spend money on fuel or public transportation.

 Furthermore, remote working is one of the best tactics you can adopt to retain your workers nowadays since it boosts morale and satisfaction within your organisation. Also, you can hire great employees from anywhere in the world, circumventing the geographical constraints of a physical office. Therefore, consider allowing your employees to work entirely remotely to promote flexibility.

2) Leverage technology

Many experts agree that technology is one of the best partners your business should rely on to make your workplace more flexible. Thankfully, there is no shortage of technology software and tools that can support a flexible workplace in today’s world.

For instance, your office can leverage cloud storage services to keep all documents and files safe and accessible to the right people. Google Drive, DropBox, Microsoft OneDrive, and NordLocker are some of the most effective and popular cloud storage services you can use, so keep this in mind.

You can also use project management software to plan, organise, and manage workplace projects. The best project management solutions allow your managers to assign tasks and set due dates. Then, as workers finish their tasks, they can submit and mark the work as complete or pass it on to the next employee in the project funnel.

Some project management platforms even go further to ensure that your remote workers remain productive.  For instance, some systems make employees check-in and out of projects to track how long they have worked on something exactly. This way, you can maintain accountability among members of a dispersed team.

Furthermore, you can also use great software like Visual Planning for HR management. Visual planning is a staff scheduling and HR management solution that helps your organisation stay on top of employee management. Your HR manager can use Visual Planning to view staff availability, track time off and absences, and control how much information users can see and modify. In addition, workers can also use it to fill in timesheets and calculate overtime and customise their work schedules based on working hours to ensure maximum flexibility.

3) Select the approach that works best for your organisation

Workplace flexibility isn’t simply letting employees come and go as they please. As such, a sense of structure is crucial to managing this flexibility for the best results. There are different ways to grant workers more autonomy and keep them satisfied and happy. However, what may work for one organisation may not work for yours, so it would be best to select the best option that suits your company’s needs.

For example, flexitime may be the best way for your organisation to give staff more flexibility. Flextime gives workers the freedom to structure their workdays and weeks, typically including where, when, and how long they will work. Alternatively, you can offer a compressed workweek arrangement, offering employees a shorter workweek for the same number of work hours. For example, an employee can work four 10-hour workdays instead of five 8-hour workdays. 

Therefore, workweeks remain 40-hour arrangements, but the single day off offers some added flexibility. Statista data indicates that approximately 297,000 UK employees were employed on job contracts to work compressed workweeks in 2021. Job sharing is also an equally practical but less common approach to consider for workplace flexibility based on your company’s needs.

Job sharing splits a full-time job between two part-time workers. This arrangement is often ideal for candidates who are qualified for a specific position but prefer the flexibility of a part-time job. Permanent part-time arrangements and hybrid work culture are other flexible approaches worth considering, so keep this in mind.

4) Encourage breaks

A study of 2,000 UK employees found that over 6 in 10 feel they don’t take enough breaks during working hours. However, occasional breaks are crucial to a workplace culture of adaptability and flexibility, so it is essential to encourage breaks at your office.

Breaks offer workers the chance to refocus on their work since they can rest and recharge during these periods. In addition, breaks are the perfect way to allow workers’ creativity to flow. Spending too many hours focused on a task can do more harm than good concerning creativity, so encourage your staff to take a few strategic breaks so they can come up with solutions to complex problems more efficiently.

Furthermore, breaks can reduce employees’ stress, boost their mental health, and offer them a healthy work-life balance, key to employee engagement and job satisfaction. Additionally, your employees are less likely to be injured on the job if they take regular breaks. This reality isn’t limited to physical labour jobs.

Even desk jobs can cause injuries due to poor posture from sitting for prolonged periods and eye issues from staring at a computer screen for hours on end. You can encourage your workforce to embrace breaks by enforcing a compulsory policy of time away from desks at a fixed interval. Also, you can provide nap rooms for 10 to 20-minute breaks, lengthen lunch breaks, and force workers to leave their desks during lunch by offering free food and other incentives.

5) Revise your meeting policy

It is estimated that UK workers waste about 13 days a year in unproductive meetings. These meetings often require staff who should not be there or will not add value to the interaction. Consequently, consider revising your meeting policy to ensure that workers are not obliged to be present at meetings where they are not necessarily needed.

Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, says that excessive meetings are a big no unless you are sure that they are offering value to the entire audience, in which case they should be kept short. He also opines that companies should do away with frequent meetings unless they are dealing with pressing matters. Meeting frequency should also drop rapidly once the urgent issue is resolved.

Furthermore, allow your employees to leave meetings where they are not adding any value to the discussion. Generally, decreasing the number and frequency of scheduled commitments can empower your workers to use the time as they see fit, promoting maximum flexibility. Thankfully, deciding which meetings must go and which must stay is a reasonably straightforward process. You can simply consider whether the meeting in question is urgent and whether all potential invitees need to be present before calling it.

6) Take any new ideas for a test drive

Some flexible working ideas might seem like an excellent fit, but many turn out to be quite the opposite when put into effect. Therefore, it is prudent to take any new ideas you come up with for a test drive before implementing them permanently. You can start your pilot program with a few essential departments and set a date to run your trial and review the data. Pilot programs offer you the time to gather the needed information for your trial’s success.

In addition, they can help you detect and iron out any issues that will arise with new flexible working arrangements. This way, you can roll out a better program to the rest of the company to boost your chances of success. You can start your pilot program by determining which departments would benefit from more workplace flexibility. Also, consider which managers will be the best fit for testing a flexible working plan since some managers may not welcome this shift with open arms. 

7) Train your employees and managers

Your employees and managers may struggle to adapt if you implement flexible working policies without prior training. Consequently, consider holding training sessions to lay out your expectations and ensure that your team members understand their roles. You can offer regular training to employees to help them adjust to flexible work arrangements for the best results.

Similarly, train your managers to adjust to the changes to prevent constant friction with your employees. For instance, your managers must learn to trust employees and offer them more freedom in a remote working environment. Also, train these managers to be good communicators and performance-focused to embrace a relaxed work culture more easily.