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Since the pandemic hit, we’ve been inundated with research, articles, news, discussions, and content of all kinds around the dramatic shift in the world of work.

And so here’s another for you.

But perhaps with an idea that goes slightly against the grain.

We’ve heard much about the steep rise in demand for flexible working, with LinkedIn reporting a 60% increase in searches for ‘remote work’ and a 189% growth in applications for these positions.

And providing the option of flexible working appears to be vital not just for recruiting talent, but also for keeping it.

74% of employees have said they would be less likely to leave a company if given the opportunity to work remotely.

So, just offer flexible working and all your talent acquisition and retention problems are solved, right?

You of course know it’s not that simple.

So, although the headlines read flexible working increases employee loyalty, it’s what’s under the headline that can be the difference between whether an employee chooses to stay or go.

It’s how that flexible work is managed that’s key.

Just because a team isn’t physically together 9 – 5 Monday to Friday, doesn’t mean company culture is abandoned. Especially since 77% of job seekers consider a company’s culture before applying and almost two-thirds of employees cite culture amongst the top reasons for staying in a job.

So, whilst meeting that demand for flexible working is necessary, it can’t be offered in isolation. Think of it more as a strategy of recruiting and retaining talent. Here we run through the components that can make up that strategy.

Ensure a strong line of communication

This is obvious, we know. But that doesn’t make it any less crucial. Remote means no longer being able to turn to a colleague and get an immediate answer. Waiting ages for a reply or even not receiving one can be frustrating and slow down progress.

This doesn’t mean immediate answers should be expected when working remotely. A downfall of working at home for some has been the expectation placed on them to be reachable and responsive 24/7. This, of course, is not what we’re suggesting.

What we are saying is that there should be lots of opportunities for employees to reach out and get a response. So, that could be using a project management platform, setting up a WhatsApp group, and having weekly team meetings.

Don’t abandon the onboarding process

Hiring remotely comes with many obstacles. One of which is showing new recruits the ropes. But that first impression is key. Having a schedule set over 2 weeks that runs through projects, platforms, and meet and greets gives you a structure, plus the confidence that everything important has been covered.

If meeting in person is an available option, take it. Even if it’s just one day, that physical meet can make all the difference to a new employee. If it’s not an option, then there’s always the trusty Zoom and screen shares.

Celebrate employee success

When an employee has done a great piece of work, gone above and beyond, or mastered a new skill, it’s easy to say well done when you walk past them in an office.

It takes a little more time and conscious effort when remote. But only a little. And that small amount of extra effort can go a long way. So, be sure to send that email or publish that social media post to show your appreciation.

Adopt a virtual open-door policy

An open-door policy is often used as a way of encouraging effective communication, showing mutual respect, and building relationships. And just because you no longer have the physical door between you and your employees, doesn’t mean this sense of accessibility has to be lost.

Make sure your employees know you’re available at the end of the phone, share your calendar, or add a Zoom link to your email signature that allows catch-ups to be booked with ease.

Create a virtual water cooler

We all know the cliche, office workers gathering around the water cooler to chat about their lives outside of work. General office chit-chat was a way for colleagues to build friendships. Being in the same room as someone all day meant talk wouldn’t just be about work, you could strike up a spontaneous conversation with someone with ease.

And so, because flexible working can mean more varied schedules, there’s a risk that any conversation between colleagues only takes place when tasks need to be discussed. Spontaneity is lost and with it the chance to get to know one another.

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Arrange Microsoft Teams or Zoom calls for colleagues to talk about anything but work. You could include activities and games, or simply keep it as a chance to just chat.

Arrange meet-ups

Why not go a step further than the virtual water cooler and organize in-person get-togethers? Team lunches or away days can be a real boost for morale and give you all the chance to create actual connections that can lead to more investment from your team.

Help with home setup

Wanting and being able to work from home are two separate things. That’s why it’s important to support your employees with their home office setup. Make sure they have all the equipment they need to work comfortably and effectively, such as a laptop, desk, chair, and phone. And if they don’t, offer to help.

Offer expenses allowance

Typically, tea and coffee are on tap when you’re in the office. A kettle, coffee, and tea bags are staple office items, being without would probably cause the same stir as an office without, say, computers.

But when you work from home, you no longer get the free coffee and tea bonus. Then again, why shouldn’t you? Offering a small expenses allowance for team members gives them the option of working from a coffee shop, this way they still get the drinks and benefit from a change of scene.

Make sure remote also means flexible

Just because a company offers remote working, doesn’t mean flexibility is guaranteed. Directors may fear a loss of control and productivity when their employees are working from home, leading to micromanagement.

A big reason why so many want the option to work remotely is that they want flexibility. They want to be able to work when they’re most productive, pick up their children, do the washing in their lunch break, and start earlier to finish earlier. Make sure your form of remote working incorporates this fundamental flexibility.

To sum up

People want flexible work. It’s a fact. But that doesn’t mean they want to be left alone (not all the time anyway). Merely offering flexible working won’t win you the top talent and ensure you keep it. It’s what comes with flexible working that counts. It’s the communication, the increased freedom, the chance to connect, and the continued support, that’s what makes the difference.

By Amy Nelson, Commercial Director at Nelson Recruitment Services.

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