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Implementing a flexible working project 

This is the first in a series of Flexibility articles on how to implement a successful flexible working project.  Other series have dealt in some detail with the human resources, facilities and technology issues.  Here we describe a proven approach covering strategy, quantifying the business case, delivering the benefits and organising a successful project.

The series is aimed  at HR, facilities, technology, finance and project managers as well as operational managers of teams that plan to work more flexibly.


 

 

1. A strategic foundation

The times they are a-changing - too quickly for many managers trying to run a successful operation in the face of changing market conditions, employee aspirations, technologies, regulatory environment and other external factors.

Following on the heels of business process re-engineering, customer relationship management and other business transformation initiatives, new ways of working may seem an initiative too far.  Yet it reaches the parts other initiatives fail to touch and offers the potential for wins all round: employers, staff and the broader community.

Contents:

The basics:

As technology gets better and cheaper, conventional assumptions about how, where and when we work need to be challenged. We already accept that the job-for-life is no more.  Forward-thinking employers are now challenging the need for offices, defined working hours, paperwork and commuting.

For most people going to work still involves a physical journey. However, in the information age:

  • It is usually easier to move work to people than people to work

  • the office becomes the global digital network.

Most large organisations already benefit from new ways of working in some way as their staff use portable phones and laptop computers to become more mobile. However, few employers have developed and implemented strategies that allow them to benefit fully from the potential of working in the information age.

Benefits all round:

The following chart illustrates a strategic approach, showing how innovation in facilities, technology and HR and deliver a range of business benefits.

Areas of activity

  • Facilities: office and "away from the office facilities
     

  • Technology: infrastructure and applications, business processes and communications
     

  • The human factor: organisation, management methods, working practices, skills and HR policies

Integrated change programme

Improvements

  • Effective and efficient service delivery
     

  • Low operating and administrative costs
     

  • High business efficiency and team / personal productivity
     

  • High staff motivation and retention
     

  • Equal opportunities, environmental and social sustainability

 

It is by bringing together in an organisation those responsible for facilities, technology and human resources around a business-driven programme of innovation in how, where and work is done that sustainable benefits can be delivered.

This chart acts as a reference point for the remainder of this series. Other articles (see other resources) have shown the developments that need to take place in each of the key areas summarised in the left hand box in order to achieve improvements. Employers will want to see some numbers supporting the benefits outlined in the box on the right. Being able to quantify the potential benefits is a key element of building the business case for flexible working and for implementation.

The real world:

Very few projects will enjoy the luxury of a "clean start".  More usually flexible working reaches the agenda in response to a particular challenge: not enough space in the building, staff turnover too high, pressure to reduce fixed costs, commuting disruption, etc.

Whatever the challenge, the starting point is usually to build a business case and sell it to senior management.  As with most changes in organisations, an investment is required in order to reap the rewards.  Fortunately most solutions can be piloted before large-scale investment is required.

Uniquely, successful flexible working programmes bring together human resources, facilities, technology and operational managers around a common agenda of business improvement.  Organising and managing such an interdisciplinary team is itself a challenge.

Series overview:

The remaining three articles in the series cover the following topics:

Quantifying the benefits and costs: How to put numbers on the benefits and costs of a flexible working project

Planning for results: A structured approach to planning a project, based on clear objectives, tasks and outcomes

Organisation and management: Tips on how to organise a flexible working project, including selling the business case, assembling and directing the team and ensuring the full range of benefits are delivered.

Other resources:

Supporting this series are three other tutorials:

Also, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, see our article on "12 ways to screw up a flexible working project"

 

Next article: Quantifying the benefits and costs

 

 
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