The biggest obstacle to implementing good practice is in many cases the difficulty of persuading individual line managers who worked in traditional mindset to accept more flexible working arrangements.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ pattern of work-life balance practices. It is important that as an employer Muliya can offer practices that appeal to all employees. Here are some examples of ways the organization could provide some options to staff:
- Offering more flexible work patterns such as
- part-time working
- variable working hours
- job sharing
- working from home
- term-time-only working
- One of the biggest challenges that a business enjoying flexible working faces is getting the communications right, both internally and externally. Customers, colleagues and managers need to know how and when they can get in touch with anyone who may be remote working.
- As part of the planning stage it is necessary to develop a communications plan for flexible working. Organization can specify how and when managers, colleagues and customers can be contacted under normal circumstances, as well as the communications procedure for when something urgent comes up when they are teleworking or mobile working. Employers need to set expected response times, specifying, for example, that if an employer leaves an urgent voicemail, employers expect to hear back within half an hour.
- Personal contact will become even more important and employers should aim to get their flexible workers together regularly, for example at least once a week. As part of their new work life balance, employees will usually enjoy the opportunity for team meetings.
- There are lots of communication channels, including remote web access, fixed and mobile phones (including voicemail and text) email, tele- and video- conferencing, Instant messaging and of course face-to-face meetings. Modern phone systems mean that a single phone number can be used to reach someone no matter where they are – at home, in the office or even on their mobile! So now working on the move becomes a reality.
- In most cases, employers aim to develop a blend of communications. It is better not to just rely on email for example to communicate with employees – a phone call can be more effective and personal if employers are not seeing them every day because they are telecommunicating.
- Maintaining the buzz associated with a creative and dynamic team can be a real challenge when they are teleworking and spending a lot less time together. In addition, many employees, especially those without family commitments, find the social aspect of working in a team is an important part of their life.
- It is important to note that too much use of technology can isolate people from their colleagues and business partners. Steps need to be taken to ensure teams meet together face-to-face.
- It is important that the organization make the most of the time that the team is together. You may want to encourage creativity and interaction rather than making sure they all sit down and get on with their individual jobs – they can do that when remote working! Often this can be done by meeting in informal surroundings, such as a pleasant café or conference centre.
- And the team will need to keep informal communications flowing when they are remote working. Quite a few businesses find that Instant Messaging services like Skype or MSN are very useful for this. They are free, allow you to set your ‘presenters’ (eg Online, Busy, Away, Be right back) and you can even attach a webcam to them!
Solutions To Overcome The Challenges In The Path Of Implementing Flwh In Traditional Mindset Organization
Make sure that the lines of communication stay open and that you speak on the phone often when people are working from home. Look out for early warning signs that flexible working may not suit the employee and take action. You may find it useful to speak on the phone every day, at least at first until you are sure that all is well. If you speak on the phone or meet face-to face, you are more likely to pick up any issues or worries and it will also be easier for the flexible working employee to feel they can raise any concerns informally. Not every manager communicates well. If you think you need some help in this area, ask for training. Communication is the key skill to master if you are to make a success of flexible working.
- Use technology to make up for distance. It is suggested to use tele/video conferencing as a way of keeping the whole team working on a project in regular touch. You might also want to consider using Instant Messaging or similar applications to help people chat with each other in an informal way.
- Train people for flexible working. Some employees who are remote working will be more self-motivated than others. Provide clear instructions and guidance as to exactly what work are required as well as clear deadlines. In some cases, employees may benefit from specific training in time management techniques, increasing personal productivity.
- Support flexible working. You will need to ensure that somewhere is provided for all employees to use PCs and access the Internet when they are in the office, even if it is a team desk facility
- Actively encourage teamwork and social interaction. If some of your team is remote working it is more important than ever that you have regular face- to- face team meetings. Use this time to clarify overall objectives as well as make sure everyone is clear on what they are meant to achieve. As an employer, it is up to you to provide the overall vision. This will help your remote working staff feel motivated and see where their role fits in.
- Manage by output not input. As an employer, you will need to focus on deliverables and results instead of presence and activity. You will need to find other ways of checking that your employees are engaged and on track. It is worth knowing that there are a hundred visual cues that you usually use every day as an employer to check whether an employee is excited and understands what he needs to do. You need to identify ways to compensate for this visual feedback. Make the shift to ‘management by output’ rather than ‘management by eyeball.’ Also, your remote employees are missing out on the visual cues that tell them that their work is valued. When in the office, the fact that you smiled or said thank you when they delivered a report, for example, may have added to their sense of motivation. Your remote employees also need you to confirm that their work is valued and give them positive feedback.
- Change the culture: The employees who are office based may feel resentful of remote workers. Make sure that they know why the flexible working system has been put in place and consider how their own roles may need to change to complement the staff who are remote working.
- Clarity in your expectations: If you need remote working employees to be available to be called or emailed at a particular time, make it clear in advance. If you call and there is no reply, you should not assume that the employee is on the beach! Expect that the employee will not always be at the end of the phone; unless you have made it clear in advance that you would like him to be. It is also important to specify any other expectations that you have in advance. Then the employee will have a clear framework to work within.
- Recognize that people have a life outside work. Your business will enjoy increasing productivity. But it is crucial that you make sure that your flexible working staff understand that they are not expected to be on a 24 hour call, if they are working remotely. They should make full use of the ‘Off’ buttons on their computer and mobile phone.
- Lead by example. Work flexibly and show others how well it can work, as well as enjoying the advantages of flexible working and a better work life balance yourself.
- Lead well, manage sparingly. Set overall goals and objectives, be clear about required outputs –then leave it to your staff to excel. They should have improved work life balance and the business will see increasing productivity. Ultimately organizations can share the joy of win-win policy with employees.
Challenges of having both FWH and FLWH
Both FWH and FLWH concepts are having so many differences in their ideology when philosophical base is concerned. So, it will cause dissatisfaction among employees working on FWH basis. If these are addressed by proper ways and means by an employer this is not at all a threat. But, at the same time it is very challenging to convince dissatisfied employees. Hence, an organization having traditional mindset demands conceptual harmonization and blend of FWH and FLWH. Because, some works allow FLWH options. For eg: Marketing, HR, Accounts, Chief Manager, Auditor, Procurement head etc. At the same time some others for eg: designers, sales executives, Showroom managers, CRO, Attenders have to work within the purview of FWH.
Employers may need to put things in the right manner to introduce an alternative way of working environment. Some mandatory requirements are to be fulfilled before embracing the concept FLWH. This is also the precautionary measure which can be taken by organization well in advance i.e. from the selection of employees to work in FLWH stream.
- Personal characteristics of employees to work under FLWH system can be attributed to –
- good time managers
- good communicators
2. Job description and Keeping the track of what is agreed
It is always better to give job description in a better, furnished way to employee at the time of employment agreement. It is important to write down the agreements company made with their employees and include it in, or attach it to, their employment agreement. Putting it in writing is useful for checking that organization has same understanding of the agreement employees are making, clarifying expectations, for ensuring that critical details don’t get forgotten, and minimizing the chance that later company and employee have a different memory of what has been agreed.
Reaching agreement before you start will help avoid many of the problems that can occur. Establish mutually acceptable times for working, and include the details of what has been agreed in the letter of appointment and/or employment agreement.
Make sure you give your part-time employees what all your employees deserve – clear instructions and expectations, regular feedback, training opportunities and consideration for promotion.
• What hours do employers expect them to work? Are they set, or is it at the employee’s convenience so long as they get the work done? Do they need to let employer know?
• How, and how often, does employer expect them to be in touch with the office?
• How will employer or other team members contact employees?
• Whether employers expected to attend team meetings, training or briefing sessions?
• How can clients contact employee?
• How employers will be confident that employees’ work space is safe and meets legal occupational and health requirements?
• What equipment will employer provide, and what do employees expect them to provide?
• What costs e.g. power, internet access, phone? Will employer meet and what do employees expect them to meet?
• Are there implications for employees’ insurance cover?
• What procedures will be used for handling and storing sensitive or confidential information?
• If the arrangement does not work, what process will be used for adjusting or terminating it?
• How can both be clear about what employees are expected to do? And employers are accepted to give?
• How will workers’ report progress?
• How will employer keep staffs involved with social events? How much notice will they need?
• How and how often will employer monitor that the arrangement of FLWH?
• How will employees’ access technical support for computers or other technology?
Performance – does the performance of people working in flexible arrangements meet expectations?
These employers are looking for sustainable working Arrangements that do not compromise the organization’s performance, cash flow or the future availability of staff.
3. Training for flexible working:
Apart from being helped with awareness of information age issues, managers and staff need to learn new skills and attitudes in order to work effectively in the new environments.
Training requirements should come out of a needs analysis, which should in turn result from a thorough understanding of the new working locations, working practices, business and communications processes and technologies.
The following list outlines some areas that are frequently not addressed and can therefore result in difficulties:
- Managing a distributed workforce
- Self-supported working
- Effective time management
- Supporting a team
- Using remote access technology.
4. Keeping an eye on things
All the employers in this project found that it was important to keep an eye on the flexible arrangements employees were using, and on the impact they had on the organization and its work. In a very small company, this involved the manager or owner observing on a daily basis and taking time on a weekly or monthly basis to step back and reflect on how things are going. When the organization is larger, systems are useful to pick up patterns and trends that managers may not see directly. In particular employers required to watch:
- Workloads – are they reasonable, realistic and fairly spread?
- Hours – are people working more or less hours than needed? Are the hours of work sustainable?
- Is the use of overtime, or the accumulation of time-in-lieu, appropriate and affordable?
- Workflow – are there bottlenecks or blockages that impact negatively on people managing the downstream work?
- Is the work managed in a way that minimizes the need for unpredictable or
last minute overtime?
- Are the working arrangements compatible with each other and
with the needs of the business?
5. Technical solutions for flexible working
There is a wide range of technical solutions available to support flexible working.
Aslo Read : FLWH – Novelty In Work Jurisprudence
1) Technology supporting remote computer access
2) Technology supporting Voice & Video transmission
3) Technology for working on the move
4) Applications supporting remote working
1) Technology supporting remote computer access
There are a number of technologies that support remote working and mobile working, helping the working nomad away from the office to access their office systems and data.
A) Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the technology employed to use a public network (usually the Internet) to provide an individual who is remote working with secure access to their company’s internal network. Network traffic from the company is routed over the internet in a secure ‘tunnel’ wherever the individual is remote working. The technology basically ‘extends’ the local area network in the organisation out to the remote machine. However it must be remembered that the network link is now operating at the speed of the slowest link, which is most likely the Internet link between the office and the remote working location. This can be a problem when running certain applications over a VPN where a large amount of data is being transferred over the network.
B) Remote desktop is a generic term for software that enables a local machine to control and display the output of a system when you are remote working. Unlike VPN where the application is running on your local machine, with this form of remote computer acces, the application is running on the remote machine (for example at your office) and only the screen/keyboard/mouse data is being transferred between the local and remote machines. It overcomes the problem of running applications that transfer large amounts of data when running, and has the added security advantage that the actual data is still being manipulated and held on the remote system, not on your local machine. Also the local machine does not have to be very powerful or have the applications required installed as the local machine is just a gateway to the remote system.
The disadvantages are that the remote connection must be left switched on, and it will not be able to be used whilst someone is making a remote connection. Also, although most applications are suitable for running on a remote desktop, some are not. So you will need to check with your software supplier.
C) Windows Terminal Services / Citrix Server These are very similar technologies, as Microsoft bought much of its Terminal Services technology from Citrix. Another way of having remote computer access , the principle is similar to Remote desktop where the application is running, in this case on a remote server rather than a PC or laptop. However the server allows multiple connections, both remotely and locally, particularly useful if you have a number of workers who need a remote connection as you only need to leave your server systems running (which is normal anyway) rather than multiple office systems.
2) Technology supporting Voice & Video transmission
A) Voice over IP (VoIP) VoIP is a way of making phone calls over the internet. VoIP can provide you with a very flexible telephone system, allowing you to receive your phone calls on one single number wherever you are. So it is a great help to mobile working. The ‘switchboard’ is software based, and is easily controllable so that you can choose whether your desk phone, home office, garden office or mobile rings depending on your location at the time. You VoIP systems also have sophisticated call routing and prioritisation, and advanced voicemail functionality.
A VoIP system can run over broadband or ISDN lines, and you will need to investigate which system will give you the quality of service your business needs when you are mobile working.
Free VoIP systems also exist, like Skype, Tesco Internet Phone and MSN. These can be great ways for employees to stay in touch with each other or the office,wherever they are remote working but will not provide you with the reliability and functionality of a paid installation.
B) Conference calling a telephone call where more than two parties are involved in the call. Sometimes it is set up so that additional parties can only listen in but usually all parties can participate fully in the call. Conference calls can be a great way for staff to keep in touch if remote working for extended periods. A simple version of this is Three-way calling available from BT, however for greater numbers of participants you would need services such as BT’s Meet Me conference service, where participants dial into the conference number to ‘join’ the meeting. Additionally many 3rd parties provide similar services.
C) Video conferencing uses both audio and visual communications to bring people remote from each other together into a meeting. It may be used to link two or more locations and may also include the ability to share documents/presentations electronically. In the past, this has been an expensive option requiring specialist equipment and communications lines. With broadband access to the internet this technology is available to all if required from simple solutions with PC based software and a Webcam to hosted solutions enabling larger groups to meet and share documents. This is a great way of overcoming the disadvantages of flexible working.
3) Technology for working on the move
A) Mobile phones Mobile phones–more on mobile phone technology can be found under ‘Technology for people on the move’ below
B) 3G / 4G is the third generation of mobile phone standards and technology. To the consumer it brings faster data access speeds. The ‘normal’ data rate of 384kBits/s provides a higher connection speed than that of dial-up connections on land lines of 56 kbits/s, however other 3G technologies such as HSDPA provide for down-link speeds of between 1.8 and 14.4 Mbits/s! With the higher speeds and wider networks now available, 3G is becoming a more popular way of getting broadband when working on the move.
C) Smartphone is a term generally used to describe a mobile phone with additional computer enabled features that have not previously been associated with a mobile phone. The definition is vague and some claims to being a ‘Smartphone’ are disputed. In general Smartphones provide additional features including, email, scheduling, internet connectivity and the ability to load additional 3rd party applications. Many provide a touch screen for input or a mini QWERTY keyboard. A growing use of Smartphone’s is to enable remote access.
D) The BlackBerry is a great way to overcome any disadvantages of flexible working. It is a wireless handheld device based on mobile phone technology to deliver email and web browsing, which now includes all standard mobile phone facilities as well as standard office facilities such as scheduling. The BlackBerry became very popular when introduced as it provided ‘push-email’ where email was delivered to the phone when it was received, rather than needing the user to connect and ‘pull’ the emails down to the device. The technology requires a BlackBerry server to push the emails out to the devices, although for firms that do not want to make this investment the facility may make use of 3rd party solutions. The BlackBerry email client is now available for a number of mobile phones. In addition many other phone devices now support ‘push-email’ technologies reducing BlackBerry’s dominance in this area.
E) PDA Personal digital assistant is a handheld computer typically using a touch screen for entering data. Some form of connectivity allows remote connection to a computer system and in some cases remote web access via WiFi or mobile phone connectivity. Typical applications on a PDA will include scheduling, address book and email. The convergence between PDA and mobile phone technology continues with some Smartphones and PDAs now able to provide the same functionality.
F) WiFi Hotspots are a godsend for mobile working and remote working. They are locations where remote web access may be made using a WiFi enabled device, such as a laptop, WiFi enabled phone or PDA. The connection may be provided as a free or chargeable service, or sometimes ‘accidentally’ when the owner of a WiFi network has not secured it correctly! Hotspots are great ways of gaining remote web access when working on the move and are often found at venues where the pubic gathers, such as restaurants, airports, libraries and hotels. The range of a WiFi hotspot is usually limited to approximately 100 meters and will depend upon possible obstacles to the signal.
Other than insecure networks, gaining access to the network will require some form of ‘handshake’ to authenticate your use of the network. This may be done by configuring ‘key’ information into your devices, or it may be done by some form of ID/password challenge when you attempt to use the service. This later method is employed by providers such as BT Open zone and The Cloud where you have the choice of a range of products from pay-as-you-go to a monthly subscription.
4) Applications supporting remote working
A) Google Apps is a service from Google that provides a number of remotely hosted office tools including, email, Calendar, Talk (Instant Messenger type service), Page Creator (to create your own web pages) and Google Docs, the Google word processor and spreadsheet.
B) Online platforms like google meet, Zoom platform etc. Made meetings easier, conferences, communication easier and cost saving.
These applications can really help flexible working.
Google provides the standard version free to users and a Premier Edition (greater storage and support provided) at a small annual cost ($50) per user account. A major selling point is the ability to collaborate with other Google Apps users, sharing documents.
There are limitations on the size of documents and how many you can have open at one time, but for most users this is not a problem. The technology is being seen by some users as an attractive alternative to the Microsoft product set, not just on price, but on the ability of using it to enhance communications between remote working staff and customers.
However there some areas where they are not so useful to flexible working including:
• Non support of some browsers (in particular Opera)
• Does not as default support https encrypted connections past the login page.
• You are reliant on your broadband connection
• You are relying on the Google servers
• Your data is being stored on the Google servers, which if outside the EU will cause issues with any data subject to the DP Act.
B) Digital dictation is a means of recording the spoken word in a digital format rather than on analogue based methods such as cassette tape. It has several advantages over analogue recordings in playback, editing, copying and distributing the material. Digital dictation systems are normally used as part of a process of producing a word processed document where one party dictates into the digital recording system and another creates the word processed version by replaying the recording. As recordings are held in a digital format they may be transferred easily over networks with no loss of quality making the system very useful in situations where the parties involved in the process are remote working.
C) Document management/ document scanning are two technologies that are often used together to provide a solution to document manipulation and storage. Typically a document management system (DMS) allows electronic documents (both text and image) to be stored in a central searchable database or repository. Advantages of DMS include;
- Space saving over paper filing systems
- Faster document retrieval and searching
- Remote access to documents
- Easy electronic document distribution
- Documents are not ‘lost’ on someone’s desk
Document scanning complements DMS installations by providing the means to handle incoming paper based documentation and convert it to an electronic format for storage in the DMS. For remote working and module working employees, a DMS with document scanning can provide remote access to all the central files including incoming post, wherever they are employed to enable remote working.
If the organization can’t adopt the above all technology, it is expected to provide the following facilities for employees working under the FLWH system. A PC/Laptop with an internet facility for staff. Technical support for each and every employee working under the hood. Internet security and safe e-commerce are to be provided.