Great Business Ideas: Flexible working

Great Small Business Ideas to Start: Flexible working

Allowing employees to be flexible about exactly where and when they work can lead to significant improvements in performance and job satisfaction.

The idea

Sophisticated laptops, wireless internet, a post-baby boomer generation demand for a healthier work–life balance, and possibly a shortage of alarm clocks, have resulted in the demand for flexible working becoming ever louder.

Advancements in technology have made the option of corporate flexibility a reality that is yet to be realized by many organizations.

Telecommunications company Vodafone made the move to mobility in 2004, when it revolutionized its headquarters, creating a large, campus-like design with “break-out spaces where meetings can take place with laptops and notepads out.” Employees were given laptops, mobile phones, and wireless internet to encourage flexibility.

Vodafone commented, “people can even sunbathe with their laptop while they work . . . even be at home and still work.” The Vodafone scheme has generally been met with company-wide approval, with improvements in productivity and performance.

There has never been a better time to make the move to flexible working, as it is not just a nice idea but is becoming a necessity— for example, some countries, including Britain, have introduced compulsory flexible working rights legislation for parents. It is sensible to adapt your organization now to let the social, legal, and cultural shift toward flexible working begin working for you.

In practice

  • Market your flexible working options to potential employees— this can help recruit graduates and give your company a valuable selling point when competing for the best workers.
  • Flexible working does not mean sacrificing important deadlines or performance. Give your employees goals and responsibilities, not schedules.
  • Job sharing, where two or more people are employed in one role part-time, can provide increased flexibility.
  • Be prepared for a flatter organizational structure that can result from flexible working—open plan and fluid working environments tend to break down physical barriers and hierarchies. This can be met by resistance from senior managers.
  • Manage the transition. Many workers may be wary of change, and others may be unsure of how to cope with the new challenges it brings. Educate employees on how to get the most out of the changes.
  • Flexible working is not suitable for everyone. Some employees work better in an environment with an element of rigidity.
  • Use it as an opportunity to decrease costs and reduce transport expenses by holding meetings via telephone and IM (instant messaging) technology.
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