Why Have a Flexible Work Policy?
The impact of flexible working hours on productivity is that employees are typically more productive when they have some sort of control over their schedule and place of work. While there are many benefits to having a flexible work policy like improved employee engagement and reduced employee turnover, there are also unique challenges that come with flexibility.
Benefits of Flexible Working
An estimated 37% of US jobs can be done remotely. Here are the reasons why you might consider switching to a flexible work model—for both you and your employees.
- Attracts Top Talent: “Flexibility is so highly prized that candidates are turning down jobs that require them to be in the office five days a week. If an employer doesn’t offer the flexible working arrangements they want, they’ll simply wait for another that will,” reports Forbes. Flexibility is no longer a bonus that employers can add to job descriptions—it’s a requirement if you want highly-qualified applicants.
- Increases Productivity: Business Insider reports that the idea that our most productive work hours are from 9 to 5 is a myth. They go on to cite a sleep study that finds “up to 50% of us aren’t programmed to wake up early.” Forcing employees to work while they’re groggy can even cost businesses up to $2,000 per employee per year. Having the flexibility to work when they feel most productive also gives employees the chance to sleep off a cold or take their kids to doctor appointments, which means they take less sick days.
- Improves Employee Engagement: When employees are satisfied with their work-life balance, they can be up to 20% more engaged with their work. Higher engagement leads to higher-quality work, and flexible hours are in-demand when it comes to achieving work-life balance.
- Reduces Employee Turnover: 72% of workers who aren’t satisfied with the flexibility of their work are likely to search for a new opportunity within the next year. When you combine lost productivity, hiring costs, and training, employee turnover costs businesses an average of 1.5 to 2 times that employee’s annual salary. Employees who feel like they have control over their time are more likely to stay–saving you time and money.
- Reduces Need for Office Space: US employers can save an average of $11,000 for each worker that is remote 2 to 3 days per week. Part of those savings come from the ability to downsize your office space. With fewer people that need to fit in the same space at the same time, you can create shared work spaces where employees can rotate through stations, depending on their flexible work schedule.
- Reduces Commute: Only having to go to the office 2-3 days or week—or not at all—saves your employees money on gas and gives them more free time in their day.
- Increases Job Satisfaction: With the extra freedom of flexible schedules, employees are often given more control of their projects as well. With less micromanaging, employees have the space to take more ownership over their work, so they’ll feel good about producing higher quality results.
- Improves Work-Life Balance: Having to constantly choose work over family when it comes to doctor appointments, school plays, and sports practices can leave your employees unengaged and resentful of their work. Whether caring for family members and pets or just wanting to go outside while it’s sunny out and work when it’s dark, giving employees control over their schedule allows them to enjoy more of their life.
- Opens up More Locations to Live in: If one of your employees has a 45-minute commute one-way to work, by the end of a five day week, they’ve lost 7.5 hours just driving. They might be considering moving—and taking their expertise with them. If they only have to commute twice a week, they’ll only be driving for 3 hours, which can be a lot more manageable.
Disadvantages of Flexible Working
There are also clear challenges of a flexible work environment for both employers and employees. However, there are ways to overcome these challenges.
- Less Oversight: Flexible work models require you to trust your employees to be self-motivated to get their work done on time. If you are used to knowing exactly what your employees are doing and when, this can be a difficult transition. However, setting clear deadlines for project based work and using activity monitoring for time-based tasks (like call centers) can ease the adjustment.
- Requires Investment in Technology: Whether you need to invest in video conferencing software or hardware like laptops and monitors for your employees to use in their home office, shifting to a flexible work model will likely cost some money up front. However, it’s still worth comparing these costs with the savings mentioned above.
- Management Needs to Track Various Schedules: When scheduling meetings or getting progress updates, you’ll need to know who’s available and when. With different people showing up to the office and being “logged-in” remotely at different times, it can be challenging to keep everyone organized. Keeping meetings on a regular schedule when possible can make this easier.
- Requires Time Management Skills: With more freedom comes more responsibility. While many employees can manage themselves, it will take some more time to adjust to a flexible schedule.
- Less Established Company Culture: With less face-to-face connection, your team members may have more trouble bonding and finding common goals. However, they’ll likely still find time to talk about the weekend as they wait for everyone to log onto a call.
- Requires Remote Workspace: Your employees will not all have the same access to space and technology at home. Some will have a designated room that they can turn into a home office, and others will spend time at their kitchen table or a coffee shop. Access to technology may also be a barrier. You might need to send home a work laptop or contribute toward higher-speed internet costs.
- Increases Need for Work-Life Balance: Sometimes, life will get in the way. Distractions from family, pets, and chores can make it harder to focus on work. Some of your employees will have a more difficult time dedicating a work space at home than others. Having a one-to-one conversation with each of your team members can let you know what challenges they’ll be facing, which gives you a chance to help them set up for success. This may involve allowing flexible hours that allow employees time to help their kids off the bus or pick them up from daycare.
When facing these challenges, communicating with your team members can reveal how you can best move forward with a flexible work model.
What Are Virtual Teams in the Workplace?
Virtual teams use technology to work together across boundaries such as distance and different time zones. For example, you may have the leaders of your marketing teams from three different branches get together for a weekly check-in call. You may also have team members from the same location on different flexible schedules, with some members meeting in the office and others joining from home through a video call.
With the right technology, virtual teams can be just as effective–if not more effective—than traditional teams. However, transitioning to virtual teams in your workplace can bring its own challenges.
What Are the Advantages of Working Virtually?
Transitioning to virtual teams allows you to take advantage of the benefits of implementing a flexible work model. In this section, we’ll cover some additional advantages that are specific to teamwork.
- Increases Connection Between Different Locations: Virtual teams make it easier for members at different locations to stay on the same page. With technology that enables quick calls, file sharing, and collaboration, your teams can connect just as easily across the ocean as they could in the office.
- Makes Sharing Files More Efficient: When your team becomes used to working virtually, they become more acquainted with how new tools can help them work more efficiently. For example, Alleo allows team members to share and edit documents together—while on a video conference.
What Are the Challenges of Working Virtually?
When it comes to working virtually, the greatest benefit can also be the most frustrating challenge; below are some common team meeting challenges:
- Digital Literacy: Each of your team members will be able to adjust to new technology at a different pace. During their transition, make sure they have enough support to stay engaged and eliminate frustration.
- Managing Different Software: If you currently work in or manage a virtual team, then you’re well aware of this challenge. Video conferencing, messaging, presenting, and other digital tools all require their own program. Fortunately, Alleo brings all those functions into one browser application–no download required.
As virtual team meeting technology continues to advance, programs are becoming more user friendly. See how our customizable templates can get your team engaged without the need for coding knowledge.
What Makes a Successful Virtual Environment?
A successful virtual environment is one that works as efficiently or more so than an in-office team. How can you achieve this and overcome virtual team management challenges? To create a successful virtual environment, your team members need to:
- Trust you and one another
- Have clear expectations and deadlines
- Know who to go to for questions and challenges regarding both projects and technology issues
- Feel excited about presenting updates
Checking these boxes will develop more engaged and empowered virtual team members.
What Are 3 Important Strategies of Virtual Teams?
Virtual teams need direction and connection to operate effectively. So how do you manage a virtual team successfully? There are many ways to guide your team and keep them working in sync, and these three strategies will create a strong backbone for your team.
- Designate a Point Person: Your team’s point person doesn’t have to be the manager, but they are who members can go to with questions about a specific project. Having a designated person to go to makes it easier for your team to find the right information, and it removes conflicting information coming from multiple sources.
- Make Time for Personal Connection: Even without face-to-face interaction, your virtual team will still benefit from getting to know each other. Allow some extra time for personal conversations so your team members can get to know what each other is like outside of work. Bonding boosts morale and understanding, which also makes for a more cohesive working unit.
- Make Sharing a Habit: In order to keep all members on the same page while working from different locations, give them regular opportunities to update the team on their progress (celebrating their wins) and voice any concerns (overcoming their challenges).
Does your virtual team refer to the same point person? Do your team members feel a personal connection as well as a professional one? Are they comfortable sharing both successes and difficulties? If so, then your virtual team has a strong foundation.
How Does Technology Affect Communication in Virtual Teams?
How you implement technology can make or break your virtual team. Virtual team communication challenges can halt productivity, and the appropriate technology can give your team a seamless meeting experience. When building out your virtual team technology make sure that all of your team’s needs are met. Is it easy to schedule calls? Do your video calls have a time limit? Which software are you going to use to create presentations, write and edit documents, store resources? Will your whole team be engaged in the meeting or just the leader?
Five Ways to Improve Communication in Virtual Teams
Virtual teams can’t function without effective communication. Whether you are just forming a virtual team or if you are looking for ways to make your existing team more efficient, try implementing the following five steps:
- Enable Quicker Communication: Jumping on a video conference is now just as easy as making a phone call—at least it should be. Are your virtual tools making communication easier or slowing it down? If you are using too many platforms (for video calls, messaging, document sharing and editing…), your team members can become overwhelmed. It’s easy to lose track of where important information is. Did it come in an email attached in a slideshow, or was it sent through the team’s message board?.
- Automate Reminders: Workflow tools can send out automatic reminders to team members to keep them on schedule. This takes pressure off the manager and the team member because they aren’t getting reprimanded by a person, they’re just receiving a notification.
- Improve Communication Accessibility: Choose programs that have accessible user interfaces. New technology always includes a learning curve. Understand how quickly your team can adapt and set them up with tools they can succeed with.
- Promote Collaboration: Effective communication tools make it possible for all team members, not just the leader, to contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way. Which do you think is more effective—everyone staring at their screen while one person presents, or a virtual whiteboard where each member can contribute their ideas as they develop?
- Document Interactions: The great thing about communicating through software programs is that they usually save your conversations and attachments. That means your project history is backed up on the internet. If your computer crashes, there are still copies of your hard work that you can recover. What’s more, many programs allow you to search through past conversations, which can be a lot faster than digging through a filing cabinet.
Building trust in virtual teams starts with communication. Does the vast array of virtual tools make it difficult to find what’s best for your team? It doesn’t have to.
Maximize Your Human Capital with Alleo
We know that for all the benefits of flexible work and hybrid models, virtual meetings can be a pain point for employees and managers alike. That’s why we created Alleo to make meetings engaging for your whole team—all in one platform. Here’s how we make virtual meetings exciting:
- Seamless Experience: Say goodbye to keeping countless tabs and programs open during a meeting. All of your team functions, from presentations to messaging and multiple video streams are all in one place with Alleo. You can also synchronize your team’s viewing area with our common operating picture. This keeps everyone working together, instead of losing members in a pile of applications searching for the current topic of discussion.
- Presentations: Whether your team is having an internal meeting to discuss project updates or an external meeting to pitch to a prospect, presentation matters. With our built-in presentation builder, you can incorporate multimedia content that proves your point and excites your audience.
- Collaboration: Engagement can’t exist without collaboration. That’s why Alleo solves one of the top pain points of virtual meetings: one-sided presentations that leave the audience out. Are you having a brainstorming session? Use Alleo as a virtual whiteboard where everyone can write and add sticky notes (with drag-and-drop capabilities). You hired your team members because they come up with great ideas. Now let them share.
- Learning: It can be hard to engage new employees even in person. There’s a lot of new information, and it’s all important. Because Alleo allows you to combine video streaming with visuals all on the same screen, you don’t have to pause a dynamic conversion to share a document or piece of media. When training a new employee, time matters. Alleo’s learning tools make the most of your team’s time by removing interruptions.
- Strategizing: Everyone’s ideas matter when you strategize. With Alleo, you can ensure that everyone’s voice is heard with our interactive visual collaboration canvas. Team members can update the shared visuals in real time, so the conversations—and ideas—don’t stop.
Connect with us to see the new, better way of looking at meetings!