26 Jul 2020

How to create and manage a flexible work environment?

Flexible work environment is no longer just a “cool thing to have”. Many companies are recognizing its benefits as a cost-efficient and safe way to run your business. However, if those flex arrangements are not implemented well, businesses can face health hazards, lower employee satisfaction, and an overall drop in business performance. 

And that’s the last thing you’d wish for right now. 

When it comes to a flexible work environment, there’s no real room for errors. Get it wrong, and your workplace becomes a covid playground. Get it right and your operations will continue to run smoothly, without any remote obstacles to overcome. That’s why we prepared this short guide on how to implement flexible work arrangements and set up your office for hybrid (office/remote) work. 

Is a flexible environment the right choice for you? 

Company perspective

Flex work arrangements will speed up the process of complying with all the health guidelines while opening-up your offices. The majority of companies do not own facilities with the extra space needed to satisfy the 1.5m between each person requirement. Thus, it comes down to two solutions:

a) Change your office design

Add screens, build up cubicles, move desks, and turn common areas into office spaces. While this is feasible, it costs time and money. It’s a long term solution that can’t be implemented immediately. 

b) Focus on managing people

Leave your office layout as it is and manage people. Offer flexible working, ideally in a way that they can decide when to come to the office and when to work remotely. In comparison with the option above, this one is cost-efficient and can be implemented overnight. 

Employees perspective

According to Buffer 2019 study: State of remote work, 99% of asked expressed a desire to work remotely at least a part of their week/life. And that was before the coronavirus. 

One of the most important reasons for partial remote work is saved time. Workers can decide when they’d like to come to the physical location or when it’s perfectly ok to work from home. That flexibility can empower employees to be in charge of their own time and have a better work-life balance. By commuting to the office only 2 or 3 times per week, they can save up to 6 hours that would otherwise be spent on the road. That time can be invested in finishing their tasks, making them more efficient, or spending more time with their family which will increase overall mental health and happiness. 

The benefits are clear – lower costs, healthy offices, happy employees. However, when implementing the new regime, there’s a set of steps you need to consider. 

Start with planning your flexible workplace

That’s the first step. Don’t just jump into various solutions – find the answers to those questions above, and map out answers to any exceptions. 

Carefully review your offices and team dynamics:

  • Is there a team that needs to be present every day? Find a fixed space for them. 
  • Are they cross-cooperating with other teams? 
  • Do you have a place to sit another team at least 2 times per week? Where can you place them?
  • How will you limit desk/office space bookings, for the ones booking on their own? And, more importantly, how are you going to implement that limit?

All of these questions need to get answered before deciding on tools you’re going to use that can help you out. And don’t forget to double-check your solution with team leads and C-suite. 

Keep the standard work schedules

Is your company used to the 9-5 schedule? Well, stick with it. People are creatures of habit. Change the work schedule and you’ll have to deal with confusion and lower productivity. 

The main benefit of standard schedules is definitely easier communication. Whether people are working remotely or in office, communication should still be possible and efficient. And honestly, waiting a couple of hours to get the answer to your email is just not going to cut it. When everyone is working at the same time, jumping on a call to discuss things becomes as easy as walking to someones’ desk when in the office. And that’s the cooperation you want to foster. 

The second benefit is that your operations will run smoothly no matter the location of your team. Tasks are rarely isolated and often require input from other team members. With standard schedules, projects will get completed in less time. 

Track your workplace attendance

One of the greatest challenges is tracking who’s in the office on which days. That’s not only necessary to keep track of office occupancy, but it’s a must for tracking transportation costs in the majority of countries.  

How to track this?

For pilot implementation, start with a simple spreadsheet. It’ll help you define what you need in the long term. Once you’ve got this covered, progress to an app that covers both business needs and is simple to use (like Joan Desk Booking, for example). 

Build accountability and focus on results

Work on your company culture. Flexible work hours definitely rely on employees being truthful, and accountable for their projects. Make sure that everyone understands the importance of booking their workplace in advance, showing up on certain days, and working even when they’re remote. 

Hold 1:1 meetings for clear communication, and measure KPIs for each individual. Let them set up goals, and hold them accountable for taking action. By keeping them in charge, it’ll bring positive results since it’s something they commit voluntarily and is not something that they need to follow for the sake of following. 

Learn and iterate

Transitioning to a more flexible workplace is a process that can’t be perfected overnight. Choose tools and processes that will work for years, not only for a month. And most importantly, won’t bite into your already existing tasks. 

If you’d like to learn more about fast, simple, and efficient ways of implementing a flexible workplace read our introduction of Joan Desk Booking app.