In today’s world, traditional workplaces are becoming a thing of the past. With continuous changes in technology, global competition, generational differences, caregiving responsibilities and economic factors, firms are being forced to re-evaluate their traditional workplaces and how they approach their workforce. Firms offering flexible work arrangements have multiple positive benefits not only for the firm but also for the employees. These arrangements work to attract, retain and engage a quality workforce of the best and brightest employees without geographical restrictions. Flexible work arrangements for employees increase employee productivity, quality of work, health and wellness, and personal life benefits among multiple other positive effects. But how can firms create successful flexible work arrangements?
Support for Flexible Work Arrangements Starts at the Top
The firm’s leadership needs to be a unified front in their commitment to a results based culture. Less emphasis should be placed on where an employee is physically working and instead be focused on the work that is being produced. If the leadership does not support the initiative, flexible work arrangements will not succeed. At Boomer Consulting Inc. our leaders are unified in their way of thinking and promote flexible work arrangements through remote workers, flexibility with employee hours, and the ability to work remotely from any location when needed.
Not only do leaders need to support the initiative, they must lead by example and provide their team with the tools and resources that are required to successfully work remotely. At Boomer Consulting, Inc., all of our leaders are remote workers, continually leading by example and making a conscious investment in technology, continual training and giving all employees support with flexible work arrangements.
When remote workers are added to a firm, it is easy for them to become siloed. These employees who work remotely may have the most frequent communication within their designated department, and find it difficult to have open lines of communication between all departments of the firm. On the flip side, employees who are all working in the office can become siloed and lose sight of other employees who are not around on a day-to-day basis. It is important to keep the lines of communication open and flowing to ensure that employees see the bigger picture when it comes to their jobs and the overall success of the firm.
With the flexible work environment at Boomer Consulting Inc., we continuously keep our lines of communication open. One example of this is our weekly staff meeting where the team video conferences in and shares updates and announcements. We have weekly one-on-one calls via Google Hangout with appropriate team members and continuously utilize Google Messenger to say hi or ask questions. As important as it is for firms to have open and flowing communication, it should not only be based around business, which brings me to my next point.
Moving the Water Cooler Conversations Online
While you are communicating important business information throughout the day, it is also important for employees to get to know one another on a personal level. Small talk within the office creates connections, which most of us do not appreciate until they are gone. Spontaneous chats with co-workers also help influence creative input, gain feedback, and keeps employees in the loop as to what is going on in the office and the firm. It is important for leadership to encourage spontaneous conversations and for employees, whether in the office or working remotely, to feel that it is acceptable to jump on a video conference call with a co-worker and chat for a couple of minutes.
Some firms have gone so far as to use companywide messaging apps such as Slack, HipChat, Yammer and many more to encourage the sharing of random articles, videos, and humorous finds for the office to share while keeping in mind to define which messages are appropriate for which channels of communication.
Invest in Face Time
While technology such as video conferencing, instant messaging and messaging apps can encourage the open flow of communication, nothing can replace face-to-face time with co-workers. These face-to-face meetings can help reset expectations, strengthen bonds within the firm and help strengthen the culture. These meetings can be done as team retreats, team training days, strategic planning, or can be done on much smaller levels.
Here at Boomer Consulting Inc., we do both. Our company comes together as a full team for three meetings per year to encourage that open flow of information face-to-face. This year we have even tried something new where our remote consultants did a one-day meeting to collaborate and prepare for upcoming projects. This required fly and/or drive time, but the benefits were immense as the team bonding flourished.
Evolution of Firm Culture
Lastly, it is important to note that a firm’s culture does not just exist in its own bubble, so it will evolve as flexible work arrangements start to become the norm. The shift in thinking and communication needs to permeate throughout the organization, and it is important to get employee buy- in. The Boomer Consulting team is always looking for new and exciting ways to engage with our remote workers. At our three face-to-face meetings a year, we celebrate all employees’ birthdays and anniversaries that have happened between the meetings. We send digital birthday cards signed by each employee in the organization, and each month we hold our “FISH! Fridays”, an idea that originated from the FISH! Philosophy for team building. These meetings are an hour long and everyone is invited via video conference to share lunch or bring their favorite beverage on a Friday afternoon. It is a great way for employees to catch up and have a couple of laughs!
As flexible work arrangements start to become more prevalent, what works for one firm may not work for yours. It is important to pay attention to employee’s lifestyle choices, get to know their hobbies and what is important to them. This will help to build a unique process for your firm that effectively builds your culture while engaging all employees.