Flexible Work Arrangements: How to Engage Employees

Submitted by on Tue, 04/12/16


There is very little distinction between “work” and “life” anymore.

The Millennial generation in particular, a segment of the population that will constitute about 75% of the workforce by 2025, expects work and life to blend seamlessly together.

It almost goes without saying that the rise of technology in all of its forms is a significant contributor to such an expectation. People are answering work-related emails and phone calls at all hours of the day.

But the parallel, or perhaps resulting, rise of flexible work arrangements is also a huge factor in the Millennial mindset.

Between 2005 and 2014 regular work at home among the non-self-employed grew by 103%, according to Global Workplace Analytics. About 3.7 million employees now work from home at least half of the time, according to the same report.

The fact is, great talent is everywhere – spread around the country and the globe. And companies need to think outside the box when it comes to capturing such talent.

The answer may no longer be paying relocation costs to consolidate employees or establishing far flung offices to house them. Instead, maybe the idea of “work” as a place an employee goes to each day needs to shift to encompass the new reality.

It’s more important than ever for companies to have the right technology in place to keep scattered workforces engaged and informed.

Remote and Flex Work Trends
A Fortune article reported that 83 percent of hiring managers said telecommuting will be more prevalent in the next five years.

And by and large, the old adage of “out of sight, out of mind” no longer holds true in a business world where remote employees are equally as important as in-office counterparts.

The new landscape is one in which technology provides the ability to get the job done, regardless of where one is located.

And allowing employees to work remotely just makes good business sense for an increasingly diverse number of well-documented reasons. Global Workplace Analytics researched the pros and cons of an agile workforce and found that allowing employees to work remotely:

  • Improves employee satisfaction
  • Reduces attrition
  • Reduces unscheduled absences
  • Increases productivity
  • Saves employers money
  • Cuts down on wasted meetings
  • Improves employee empowerment

And these are just a few of the benefits that the report cites.

Keeping Employees Engaged and Informed
Remote work can present challenges to traditional management and managers, as well as the workers themselves.

For instance, there’s no observing whether an employee is spending substantial amounts of time at his or her desk. So how does one ensure that remote employees stay on track? At the same time, employees can easily begin to feel disconnected and perhaps alienated when working remotely.

By many accounts the solution may lie in a combination of changing management styles and adopting technology that provides managers with insight into employee activities, while also giving employees a connection to life back at the office.

The current options in use include video chats, meeting software, instant messaging, project management software and mobile applications, all of which make it easier than ever to stay in touch.

Some companies for instance, such as Corning Incorporated, have implemented Yammer as a real time collaboration tool to bring remote workers together, according to the Forbes article.

Google Hangouts and Skype are also popular choices, allowing for virtual webcam meetings that closely resemble face-to-face meetings.

Others have invested in the latest collaborative cloud software — and in particular have opted for solutions that work well on mobile devices — something that’s critical for improving communications and engagement with workers who are regularly on the road.

Many companies are investing in employee apps that foster communication between home and office. Such apps immediately share company news and updates, announcements, and more. They also serve to streamline company intranets. The result is that staff feel connected and informed wherever they’re located.

There are plenty of options to keep remote workers engaged like their office-based peers – including various software, an increasing array of mobile apps and more. The bottom line is legacy systems are becoming insufficient. Investment must be made in new technologies, especially mobile, in order to keep pace.

Moving Forward
Believing that people do their best work when they’re able to work flexibly, Kaplan has embraced the new model and allows about 85 percent of its workforce to work remotely, according to that Fortune article.

A Kaplan executive was quoted as saying that remote work has allowed the company to not only expand its talent pool, but also improve retention, and increase productivity. And it if that isn’t enough, the company has also been able to cut office space costs, which it then invests in training and technology to improve client and employee experiences.

Ultimately, the article states, that effective use of technology in engaging remote workers has been critical to Kaplan’s success.

Where will your company fall on this spectrum?

Many companies are now in the midst of completely overhauling their work spaces to address the fact that employees are already mobile. It will fall to internal communications teams to address the challenge of eliminating barriers to success in the new business landscape, ensuring that far-flung employees remain connected and engaged with the home office.

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