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Boost employee productivity with these 5 flexible work models

Flexible working is here to stay in many areas of the high-tech and engineering arena. But if you have tried to implement long-term flexible working, you will have realised how hard it can be to decide what that will look like for your organisation. Here are five of the most popular models you can choose from.

1. Compressed work week

A compressed workweek is an alternative schedule for working that reduces a standard five-day workweek to a fewer number of days. Employees achieve the full number of required weekly hours by working longer days, it spreads 40 hours of work over fewer days, usually four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days. Some companies use the 5-4-9 work schedule, with five 9-hour days one week and four the next.

While this gives staff more days off and allows you to extend operating hours or have more people working during busy periods, different work schedules can also lead to understaffing and difficulty scheduling meetings.

Other alternative patterns include the Continental shift pattern. This is a classic continuous working pattern based on 12-hour shifts. Participants work for four consecutive 12-hour days, followed by four consecutive days off, then four consecutive 12-hour nights, followed by four consecutive days off, then four more days, and so on.

For some, 4 days on and 4 days off shifts are advantageous for allowing them to avoid having to make daily commutes while providing them with dedicated blocks of time to focus on their home life; many enjoy regularly having entire weekdays off.

2. Remote work

Nearly every facet of life transitioned to an online format in 2020. But the biggest change was the major shift from office life to remote work. As the COVID-19 crisis continues to wane and vaccinations become more widespread, many people have continued to work remotely, at least on a part-time basis.

A Gallup poll found allowing employees to work 2-3 days of the week remotely and the rest onsite provides the greatest productivity. People remote working reported stable or increased productivity while working remotely compared to in an office. Much of this was due to the elimination of daily commutes and lengthy in-person meetings.

Allowing remote work can help businesses retain employees and prevent absenteeism by promoting a sense of loyalty and dedication.

But going fully remote can enable businesses to tap into national and international talent pools. The disadvantages are that you risk a loss of company culture and social connections.

Remote work, especially for those who live alone, can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Though a better work-life balance is sometimes an advantage, many teleworkers find the opposite to be true. Some employees find that work bleeds over into their home life more and more.

Companies also cite cybersecurity at the top of a list of priorities including the difficulty supervising and onboarding employees effectively.

3. Flexitime

If remote working does not work for the business or the people, offering more flexible hours can boost employee satisfaction by letting employees choose their own work schedules. There are many ways that a Flextime system can work, though the most common are as follows: employees have a minimum number of hours they must work but are allowed to start and end either earlier or later than the typical 9-to-5 workday.

This is especially helpful for those with care responsibilities at home. It has a huge positive impact on employee attraction and retention, and it does not have to be a free-for-all; you can set boundaries, such as having core working hours, typically from 11:00 until 3:00 (though this varies) when everyone must be at work.

The biggest advantage to more flexible hours—and perhaps even the reason they exist—is that some employees have needs that can be better met with an adjusted work schedule. Benefits include higher productivity and less emergency leave, but it is not without challenges. First and foremost, it has the potential to complicate every aspect of day-to-day work if you are not careful. Everything from basic communication to collaborative projects can be disrupted by the lack of continuity, understaffing at busy periods, and potential difficulties with supervision if employees are on very different schedules from their manager.

4. Job Sharing

On the other side of the coin, job-sharing will reduce absenteeism and give you better work coverage and continuity. It’s a common working model in which two part-timers fill a full-time role. It’s great for those with other commitments such as studying or childcare.

Bringing more diverse experience to a single role will boost problem-solving and make for an easier handover if one worker leaves. However, it can cost extra admin and supervisory time, and if you don’t make sure your two part-timers have compatible work styles and similar skill levels, you’ll find yourself dealing with patchy work and possibly having to mediate arguments.

5. Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE)

While some companies have seen remote work as a valuable incentive to attract the best talent, others have been reluctant to embrace the idea because it requires a different kind of management style. A Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) is an alternative that companies reluctant to embrace remote work have considered. The ROWE model, developed by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler for Best Buy, evaluates employees only on the results they achieve, not on where, when, or how much they work. For ROWE to work, you need employees you can trust. But trusted employees are not usually the biggest obstacle. The problem often lies in the shift of mindset from manager to a "results coach."

The beauty of ROWE is that it respects employees' time and independence. It gives people the freedom to divide their time as they choose. This results in less time wasted and increased productivity during work hours. The focus is about accomplishing more (or the same) in less time.

This methodology is a shift away from a "do this, do that" style of management. It passes total responsibility to employees by giving them 100% autonomy and accountability. In ROWE, if you fail to achieve the agreed measurable results, then you may lose your job. No performance means no job.

While it does boost employee engagement and productivity, those who struggle with self-starting may see issues with productivity, and this model is unlikely to be viable for all roles, meaning some employees may be left feeling jealous and disaffected due to different models operating

The pandemic is not over yet but one of the lessons to be learned is that having speeded up new ways of thinking about how to work with one another, we now know more about what flexible work models can look like.

Professionals today are showing a clear preference for employers that place their employees’ needs front and centre in all that they do. Flexible working is a great example of how a business can put human-centric values into action. As we move towards a post pandemic work environment, it is becoming clear that the companies that will succeed are those who put people at the very heart of their organisation. Preserving and developing flexible working models is the main task of business leaders in the future.

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