As your business grows, and you begin to employ more people, you will need to take a strategic decision about where those people should be located and what hours they should work.
Times have changed! It was once the case that a job was based in an office for a set number of hours, and perhaps fixed start and end times. These days - for all kinds of reasons - that is not necessarily the case.
Many people now work from home for at least part of their contracted hours. For your growing business it could work well to employ at least some of your staff on a more flexible basis. Let’s look briefly at some of the pros and cons:
Advantages of Flexible Working
- Saves accommodation costs. Less people in the office means that you can run your business from a smaller premises and keep your costs low. Perhaps operating a kind of “hot desking” system to ensure that people can be accommodated when they need to be in would be a good idea.
- Limits distractions. Too many people in the office at the same time can become counter-productive. Whilst you want to foster team spirit (see below), things can sometimes descend into a bit of a chat forum and precious time can be wasted.
- Gives you a larger pool of potential employees. At any given time there will be a section of the working community that is not currently able to work full time in an office. This could be for various reasons - not only the immediate assumption of women with childcare responsibilities. By being willing to consider a more flexible way of working you open up a much wider resourcing pool than would otherwise be available.
- Enables you to operate on a more global basis. An office that is only manned from 09:00-17:00 will be slow to respond to existing and potential clients in different time zones. If, however, you have home-based employees working different combinations of hours, you can be ready to respond promptly for a much wider range of hours. You may have someone who is happy to start at 6 in the morning and another who prefers to work late into the night; between then they would leave your business covered almost 24/7!
Disadvantages of Flexible Working
- You need to be sure that you can trust your employees. In a way this is not necessarily a disadvantage as it should be the case anyway in a healthy business. But there will not be anyone to check on their working hours or their immediate priorities, so you have to ensure that you are comfortable with this and develop ways of monitoring what people are doing.
- Potential Expenses. Whilst you will save office costs, as seen above, there may be expenses to pay to employees working from home and you need to decide those in advance. For example, are you going to provide computer equipment to home-based employees or do you expect them to use their own? What about the cost of maintenance and consumables? Would you be prepared to contribute towards other expenses such as phone bills and heating? You need to make these decisions up front so that you are confident and clear to all about what you will and will not provide.
- Crisis management. If a major urgent problem arises, it is not always as easy to get everyone to drop everything and get it sorted if people are not physically present. This is not insurmountable: hopefully such crises will be few and far between! But it is a good idea to have an agreed procedure in place that will enable you to recall some people to the office when circumstances really do demand it.
- Loss of team spirit. If you have a significant proportion of people working remotely there is a danger that months could pass without some colleagues seeing each other! You may want to consider monthly team briefings to keep everyone in contact and up to date with what each other is doing. Choose a convenient location and keep these brief and purposeful with perhaps a lunch afterwards for those that want to stay on and socialise further.
We hope that this article has helped you consider some of the issues related to who works where! Flexible working can offer tremendous advantages for both your business and your employees, but you need to be adequately prepared and think through the related issues as above.
If you need additional funding for small business to help you grow and put some of these measures in place then why not get in touch with us at Fair Business Loans and see how we can help you to move things forward flexibly!