Picture the scene -- you're a small business and you want your first team members to be close-knit, but one of them wants to work from home on Mondays and Fridays. Someone else wants to do 7am to 3pm so they can pick the kids up from school. Can small businesses flex with staff in the same way as the corporates? Well, yes -- they can. But there are different approaches.
Wayne Guthrie is the founder and director of innovation consultancy Fearlessly Frank. The "great challenge" small businesses face is finding great people -- when you know that they must be able to perform. That, Guthrie suggests, means you must be prepared to compromise. "I have members of my team that work from home, and the other is a new mum. I'm a relatively new dad," he explains.
He describes the overarching strategy as "quality of resource." "I'd rather have less of someone's time but it be quality, than have more time and feel they aren't here mentally or emotionally."
Nonetheless Guthrie admits that the strategy is a loose one, because the business is new enough to not be encumbered by size. "We do have luxury at this stage to try to and take things on a case-by-case basis."
Communication is very important to Fearlessly Frank's directors. While technology is an enabler of flexible working -- in that it helps to build systems and processes that allow people to work remotely -- the most important communication is that of team members feeling they can open up to Guthrie and fellow co-founder Ben Little. "I hope we provide an environment where they can tell us [their problems] and tackle it together."
He is also very aware that, ironically, technology and mobile communication, can be abused -- creating an "always-on" workforce. "When people are on holiday, we encourage them to not answer emails; it undermines the precious time out of the office. Limit that connectivity and use it efficiently."
Niamh Keane is a director at property technology company Built-ID. She says that a "one size fits all" approach to staff is "outdated." As Built-ID deals with business abroad, work hours will be adjusted to facilitate those lines of communication. "We're a tech startup -- we want to create a culture that encourages creativity, leaving people empowered, inspired and trusted."
This, Keane says, could include working from home, or using their co-working spaces and sofas. The business puts structures and systems in place so meetings take place, with conference calls and dial-ins, targets are monitored and coaching sessions are also offered. In other words, flexibility doesn't mean avoiding work or meeting the business' goals -- for Keane it is about providing scope to be more productive.
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