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flexible-work-solutions_Agile People Partners

How to provide real flexible work opportunities

Remote, flexible work is fast becoming the new normal, and for a good reason. 

First, employees and freelancers love the freedom of working from anywhere. Second, the pool of available talent is dramatically larger when recruitment isn’t limited to city boundaries.

With more-and-more families exiting big cities in search of that elusive work-life balance, a tree or sea change is no longer an odd choice! Lots of people I come across are working a few days from their home in the mountains, farm, beach or wherever they call home!

John McGrath, Real Estate mogul and Agile People Partners client, says, “Sydneysiders are leaving in growing numbers and relocating to major regional centres within commuting distance.”

“They are also cutting ties with the big city altogether and moving to coastal sea change areas or regional tree change areas for a complete lifestyle make-over.”

In John’s opinion, we’ll see more Sydneysiders making a complete sea change or tree change in the future due to the following trends:

  1. More retiree buyers
  2. Decentralisation due to technology
  3. Affordability

My family happily counts itself among those that have taken up flexible work opportunities and left the big city behind

Two years ago we chucked in the 9-to-5 life and a great place in North Sydney to move up to the lovely Hawkesbury, where we breed alpacas. We call it Elmhirst Alpacas

At a recent board meeting I attended, 4 out of 9 people present dialled in from their houses, which were scattered about regional NSW.

Our kids love our more regional home – chickens, dogs, alpacas. Lots of room and a small country school.

We manage like most couples – the google calendar from hell  so our clients don’t see the madness that is our world, but we love it!

Managing employees with flexible work

Whether your remote workers are actual employees or people you outsource to, it’s important you manage them effectively to ensure consistency and productivity.

With that said, flexible work is a huge incentive to many employees, and as such, you can easily have a loyal, productive and satisfied team of workers to help you and your business succeed.

Here are seven ways to accomplish just that:

1. Provide the right tools for flexible work

When taking advantage of flexible work, your team needs tools that work.

They need to have access to files, information, tasks, deadlines, updates, news, communication channels and more.

Be sure everyone is on board with the right tools. SlackAsana and Trello are three excellent examples of tools that can help you run a remote team.

2. Create a company culture

Yes, you can create and nurture culture even if the entire team is remotely scattered.

Your culture is your values, your way of doing business, your communication style.

Each person who works for you or with you should be privy to your values. Understanding and being aligned with your values creates a sense of loyalty and community even among those freelancers you outsource to and never meet in person.

3. Communicate clearly

Be sure you are always communicating clearly with employees on flexible work arrangements.

Double-check. Ask them lots of questions. Don’t assume. Be sure you only work with remote employees and outsourced talent who possess excellent communication skills. Find ways to communicate that work.

4. Have an onboarding process for flexible work employees

This is super important and helps facilitate 1, 2 and 3.

Your onboarding process can come in a range of different forms for flexible work employees, but ideally, should involve some element of face-to-face, even via skype or zoom. This will help really communicate your culture, policies and management syle.

5. Set clear expectations

It goes without saying, but it’s all too easy to forget to set expectations early on.

Be clear in the setting stage, and revisit those expectations at regular intervals. Have goals, timelines, and hold people accountable for their deliverables.

Think you’re up for that sea or tree change?

On Tuesday, I rehomed a rooster.

Rehoming a rooster is easy! Jason, my husband, arranged the rehoming, while dropping Heidi, our daughter at ballet.

The lovely lady said she’d pick up the rooster on Tuesday afternoon.

I went to get Seamus (that’s the rooster’s name, cos of his ‘shameless’ tendencies with his girls). I had already been for a decent run, but Seamus led me on an impromptu set of sprint intervals around the paddock.

If alpacas can smirk, I saw four smirking at me yesterday and I could hear the Benny Hill theme song. Seamus 1 – Mel 0 and husband mildly amused at the story.

I promised I’d get him in the morning.

So, up I got, stealth mode activated, with a plan to catch him sleepy and still in bed.

No chance – I had to call in reinforcements after a couple of attempts. Jason arrived in clean work clothes, and stood in the middle of the paddock, eyes pleading, “what was wrong with our North Sydney life?” 

“Shut up – get the box!” I responded. 

Seamus 0  – Mel victorious.

But this saga wasn’t over yet!

Halfway to the pre-school car park where all shady rooster deals take place… suddenly the back of the car erupted with squawking and squealing – the flipping rooster had escaped and was flapping around wildly! 

Heidi, my  three year-old, wanted him to sit next to her with the seat belt on, “Cos is dangerous isn’t it Mum?” 

Eloise, my 5 year-old, was screaming and burying her head in her lap. 

I pulled over, took a deep breath and a sip of coffee… before getting back to some serious rooster wrestling.

Seamus was re-contained, Heidi was crying because she couldn’t see him, and I was looking for a stiff drink before 9 am, even though I knew I had a conference call going ahead with or without me any minute.

Finally, we handed Seamus over, and the new family thought he looked lovely.

“Best wishes big guy! I’ll miss your antics. Don’t screw it up with those nice people”.

The opportunity for flexible work is often a blessing, and enables us to live the lives we’ve always wanted, and to incorporate the balance we’ve always needed. Even so, not every day is paradise!

Remember, to talk to your remote workers – they’re not all living the dream every minute of every day! Oh and that conference call, I made it with a minute to spare… never a doubt!