Notes from practice - remote and flexible working

It is predicted that by 2020 70% of the UK workforce will be working in some kind of agile way. This includes home working, flexible working, hot desking and remote working.

The case for and adoption of remote and flexible working (RFW) is well documented: work/life balance, increased engagement for employees inter alia and increase in productivity, efficiencies and good retention for employers; not forgetting benefits for customers - improvements all round. A combination of smart tech, different ways of working and performance managing people to outcomes (not presence) are all heralding in this new era of ‘agile’. And that’s a very short summary!

I’ve distilled some key points from my professional practice in this area - supporting the development and learning for managers and teams - in my public sector work. It comes from reflecting on the last 18 months of work. I have identified some key factors for organisations and also what has helped me help them.

Organisations need to think about this

  1. Pilot RFW in a business area which lends itself to this and perhaps where staff are already working in some forms. Review, evaluate, revise and then plan who’s next.

  2. Learning workshops are needed for managers and teams scheduled into the time line at the right time. Too early and the plans and possible negotiations internally haven’t been worked out, too late and it has run away with them. If there is little or no understanding then schedule in early briefings and learning activities to capture where individuals are in their understanding.

  3. Have a flexible learning framework that has clear objectives but enables everyone to explore their agenda in a way that fits their work circumstances.

  4. Make sure the relevant ‘leader’ is clear about their vision and goals and that they present this up front at every learning session. This is vital and has make a significant difference in the learning events and subsequent actions.

Learning and development practitioners need to think about this

  1. Know your subject. I have also found being a model for agile working and being able to, for example, provide helpful learning ideas on home working/agile working/flexible working, based on personal experience and practice, is worthwhile.

  2. Keep up to date with practice and research. There’s a lot more evidence nationally, research via professional institutes and so on. It helps make the case and fill in the landscape for people.

  3. Understand how each organisation is addressing this, read the policy, ask questions, understand the culture and how people are feeling about it all; establish the strategic drivers and any behavioural values that are relevant.

  4. Evaluate the right things. Evaluate the learning and actions, not the training. Help your client by debriefing this as well so personal and team actions, communication and change can progress.

  5. You will possibly come across resistance (ambivalence) in the moment. Better to let it out and facilitate it when it happens. Organisations change, people go through transition. Reframe and promote a growth mindset when this happens.

  6. Manager and staff sessions stay separate. Managers are learning about managing in ROWE and so on; team members are generally more concerned with communication, tech, the home working environment, etc.

Issues that are most commonly raised

The common issues that arise every time are: trust, communication (all three of transactional, trust based and processes), the desire to hang onto too many processes or have more, management styles that need updating, and overcoming challenges that can be either practical and issues based.

I have shared an outline programme on my website for a half day workshop for anyone interested.