Unlocking workplace flexibility in SMEs

Adrian Hipkiss, vice president and managing director EMEA at ShoreTel talks technology and the role it can play improving flexible working for SMES whilst reducing concerns around productivity and output.

Workplace flexibility has traditionally been associated with the needs of parents and carers, however, organisations are recognising the business benefits of a more flexible way of operating. Nowadays, companies increasingly need to promote a strong flexible or remote working policy if they want to attract the best employees.

A rush of requests from staff eager to improve their work-life balance can make senior executives in SMEs feel nervous about their output and productivity levels. To a certain extent, employers should have absolute faith that their employees are being as productive as possible when they are out of the office, but they also have a responsibility to ensure that their workers have the means and encouragement to do so.

The best way to achieve this is for directors of SMEs to support their staff and their flexibility approach by using the right technology to retain control.

For firms that want to overcome their fears of productivity decline associated with remote working, here are some key ways in which technology can unlock the potential for greater workplace flexibility.

Communication tools

Whether its instant messaging, videoconferencing or audio collaboration phones, directors have a diverse choice of communication tools. Individually these are all fantastic methods for communicating that encourage trust amongst colleagues. They also remove the uncertainty that can arise while working flexibly that projects or tasks have been missed.

When used in tandem, these technologies foster a connected and more visible office community whether the team works remotely, flexibly or office based. Multimedia tools such as video calls are a great way to quash any productivity issues through face-to-face resolve.

By using the latest collaboration methods, such as video conferencing, peer-to-peer video and web conferencing, companies can harness technology for a more flexible working approach. It promotes teamwork and can save time, for example, a simple phone call can turn into a group discussion with access to shared files.

Check-in with your staff. Don’t check-up

Despite their size, today’s SMEs are more likely to have a national or even global footprint. Rather than micromanaging from afar, adopting a check-in approach using the latest technology is a great way for executives to keep informed on goings on. Whether it’s a 10-minute phone call each day to discuss workloads, a voice message system that converts voicemails to email copy, or internal instant messenger apps, using communication tools to check-in guarantees everyone is on the same page.

A crucial part of any approach is to encourage dialog within the team about how they would best like to check-in so a reliable process is put in place. By consciously updating team members on work progress guarantees that productivity levels remain consistent.

Basic requirements, such as knowing when staff are online, is important for eliminating unnecessary worry about managing employees. Unified communications methods tailored to your team will reinforce trust, and will keep anxiety about output at bay.

Sync up technologies

To remove those concerns around productivity if transitioning towards a flexible working environment, SMEs must be equipped to integrate newer communication technologies into the existing office systems. This means going beyond the traditional phone and PC combination and allowing all communication to run on a single platform shared across all devices. Syncing up technologies to devices can be done simply and securely. It’s a cost-effective way of ensuring employers remain linked up with employees’ progress, regardless of the device they use.

SMEs need to be ready for change to keep their businesses up to speed with what it takes to be an innovative, modern, mobile workplace. It is also important for attracting and retaining the best talent, with almost two thirds of individuals (64 per cent) saying they are more likely to stay with an employer who offers flexible working (Source: Aviva).

Businesses that stay ahead of the curve on flexible working can truly realise the major impact it will have on business performance. Having the appropriate technologies to accommodate flexible working, as well as providing technology which your employees are comfortable with, encourages easy communication, helping to dispel issues that could lead to a breakdown in trust.

Adrian Hipkiss is vice president and managing director EMEA at ShoreTel.

Further reading on workplace flexibility

Related Topics

Flexible Working

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