These 3 successful organisations couldn’t be more different, yet they all share one common trait: flexible working is in their DNA. Here, we learn that flexible working isn’t really that difficult – it all boils down to good ol’ communication.
Flexibility is the new currency in today’s fast-moving business landscape, and the business centre sector plays a pivotal role in the flexible working movement. From agile workspace for startups, to the freelancer looking for touchdown space, to the global corporate seeking a large floorplate to accommodate hot-desking employees – these spaces are accommodating flexible working requirements in its many diverse forms on a daily basis.
To find out how flexible working really works at ground level, the team at Alliance Virtual Offices asked three successful organisations, who each rely on remote and geographically dispersed coworkers, how they keep things humming along so smoothly.
Here’s what they discovered:
1) GitHub – global code collaboration platform
Founded in 2008, software giant GitHub is the world’s largest host of source code. The company operates a core team of 335 people across the globe from its San Francisco headquarters.
As a world-leading technology company valued at $2billion, you’d think GitHub would find it easy to keep its dispersed team in-synch. True, they use their own platform to collaborate and have an efficient arsenal of digital tools and apps to keep communication flowing.
“Some of us work regularly in our headquarters in San Francisco, or in our satellite offices in Tokyo, Amsterdam, or Boulder,” explained GitHub’s VP Strategy, Brian Doll. “We all work together, every day, on the Internet.”
But, while technology is indeed an enabler, Brian concedes that virtual connectivity alone isn’t enough.
“Teams work best when they have good relationships with one another,” he said. “Meeting up in person is incredibly important to build those relationships, and to help the team work well together at high velocity.”
That’s why GitHub holds regular meet-ups along with an annual Summit, where the entire company gets together. “We talk about our vision, we discuss our strategy, we plan major pieces of work. But we also use that time to get to know one another and have fun together,” said Brian.
Flexible and dispersed working is taking the world by storm, but as GitHub demonstrates, face-to-face communication is still one of the most invaluable (and irreplaceable) elements of their success.
2) FlexJobs – job search platform featuring hand-screened flexible jobs
Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, is an advocate for flexible working. The FlexJobs website lists tens of thousands of telecommuting roles, freelance and part-time jobs from thousands of different flexible companies, including giants like Amazon.
What’s more, FlexJobs practice what they preach.
“At FlexJobs, everyone works from home 100% of the time,” Sutton Fell explained. “We’re a distributed team, so we have people working in about 25 states in the U.S. and across all time zones.” Their core team includes full-time, part-time and freelance workers.
Operating in the fast-paced world of recruitment, constant communication is crucial. Therefore FlexJobs utilises a variety of tools including instant chat, Yammer message boards, web conferences, a virtual office environment called Sococo, and of course email. However, what works for one company doesn’t always work for the next. For instance FlexJobs haven’t found value in video calls, instead preferring web-based audio conferences.
According to Sutton Fell, constant communication doesn’t just help the team manage their workload – it also helps home-based workers feel more connected with the company and to keep isolation at bay, which in turn improves happiness at work and productivity.
3) Holly Hanna – home-based entrepreneur and founder of ‘Work At Home Woman’
Organisations and large teams aside, how do employees manage a flexible or remote working schedule? Holly Hanna, a successful home-based business owner and flexible working advocate, offered some insights into why she – and millions like her – choose to work from home.
“I think people in general are looking to attain more control over their lives and working remotely helps them to achieve this,” she said, explaining that flexible working helps employees “work hours that fit their lifestyle and family commitments”.
Yet she accepts that sometimes it can be difficult to adjust from a busy office to a quiet home environment.
To bridge the gap, Holly recommends finding a ‘fix’ in the form of a local coworking space, or even a club or group that holds regular meet-ups. “Make it a priority to get out of the house and seek the support and assistance that you need,” she advises.
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As for retaining an element of teamwork with remote workers, Holly recommends constant communication with managers or colleagues in a way that’s mutually acceptable – such as by phone, text, email, or video call – in addition to “good ole face-to-face interaction” as often as possible.
She also emphasises the importance of communicating proactively and promptly in order to rule out guess-work. The corporate world is still coming to terms with flexible and remote working, so Holly recommends answering calls as they come in and replying to emails in a timely manner. “There is such a thing as email perception, so the faster you can respond, the better impression you make.”
“Last but not least, sit down with your boss and create a set of ground rules and performance related goals for working from home,” she added. “Having a detailed system in place will help to monitor your progress, and will let your co-workers and boss see exactly what you’re working on, taking the guess work out of what you do all day.”
Flexible working is an exciting evolution that has been proven to improve productivity, increase employee engagement, and enhance employee happiness. It also carries its fair share of challenges, ranging from communication breakdowns to loneliness.
As we’ve demonstrated here, flexible working does work – and there’s no secret strategy. It’s about maintaining clear and constant communication in a way that’s mutually acceptable with the people that matter… and sticking to it. Get that right, and everything else will fall into place.
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