Notes from practice: remote and flexible working

Continuing on with my strand of work with a shared service local council, I spent the day not so long ago with some managers who are forging ahead with agile practices. These managers are ‘ahead of the curve’ and pioneering remote and flexible working in their area of specialism.

How did we spend the time?

The time was spent:

  • sharing practice and discovering how remote and flexible working is working, the evidenced benefits and the continuing challenges

  • learning some tools and skills for building trust, building accountability and dealing with challenging behaviours

  • producing action plans

What was evidenced from the practice share that works?

  1. Having team aims for officers operating in the field

  2. Providing technology, e.g. iPads, good technology and phones, forming WhatsApp groups

  3. Life work balance identified as better, although not for all

  4. Improvement in speed of delivery from contractors

  5. Efficiencies in time and good time management

  6. Trust in direct reports to work remotely and unseen

What are the challenges?

  • software issues

  • design and construction of tools and tech

  • self management when working at home or elsewhere and needing to develop some good habits

  • health and safety when you can’t see someone

  • remembering how to consider those still working in a fixed place

  • performance managing to outcomes and results not presence

Actions to take to support remote and flexible working

  1. Have well defined policy and practice with leadership providing clear direction and support. Support to include promoting and modelling technological approaches such as skyping/searching and communicating online.

  2. For managing people who work from home do three things really well. Give trust, have a clear understanding of requirements between you and make sure the individual does deliver and is productive. This is achieved by holding honest conversations.

  3. Absolutely nail communication - speaking and listening. The use of WhatsApp groups is a great tip too.

  4. Tackle the ‘availability assumption’. I call it the green dot, red dot syndrome. No one is available all the time and we shouldn’t expect immediate responses. If someone has a red dot against their availability, don’t disturb. And green dot doesn’t mean ‘interrupt me when you want’ either. Respect people need to do quality work as a priority. Use time blocking.

  5. Follow and manage your policy, aiming for consistency and adoption via change management.

  6. Keep finding quick wins and early adopters.

  7. When people are together, capitalise on it.

  8. Discuss and tackle time management challenges.

The future is agile

It is estimated that in the next five years remote and flexible working will increase and grow in the public sector enormously. My two further thoughts are:

  • Those who have good managers that are able to share practice need to listen, learn and then plan, do and review. Then repeat.

  • The golden thread and supporting policies and practices all need to align and support more flexible ways of working, and the time to start on this is now.

Get in touch if you’d like some support in facilitating remote and flexible working.