Top Tips for a Thriving Agile Workforce
The rise of the ‘untethered employee’
Business travel is on the rise, coinciding with a change in working patterns toward more flexibility, demand for more autonomy, and a desire to connect with others beyond the boundaries of an organisation. With already huge numbers of business men and women on the move every day (1.7 million by our calculations!) Forbes and Gallup now agree that almost half the working population in the US will be ‘agile’ working by 2020. The rest of the world is following close behind!
This trend is at least in part due to a) the increasing challenges of attracting and retaining new talent in a very competitive market where agile working and business travel is seen as a benefit to be sought, and b) the increasing importance of engaging and retaining these employees, in particular through creating a positive employee centric agile working experience.
But what will this mean for individual productivity, health and wellbeing as more and more people untether from their desk and step outside their organisations’ 4 walls?
Making the agile workday count
It could be argued that, until recently mobile and flexible working policies ignored the needs of the employees themselves once they had stepped outside ‘HQ’. The duty of care for an organisation was focused on providing adequate technology for the employee to ‘connect’ back in (and this remains the biggest concern for most organisations in embracing agile working, according to a recent study by Advanced Workplace). Beyond the basic technology however, individuals and teams had to fend for themselves when working individually or collaboratively, away from HQ.
However, as highlighted at both the recent Business Travel Show and CIPD Festival Of Work, attention is shifting now to not only how to better design jobs that involve digital and physical collaboration, but also how to provide workspaces and travel or flexible working solutions that offer an engaging employee and client experience and positively contribute to employees being happy, healthy and connected at work, wherever that work is taking them or getting done.
As formal alternative working strategies grow in popularity with mid and large sized organisations alike we’ve captured our top tips to support the agile workforce to thrive away from HQ:
- SUPPORT PRODUCTIVE WORKING
Do not compromise on your business needs. One of the big drawbacks of agile working or travelling regularly for business is that by virtue of being away from a fixed workspace, employees can often find themselves compromising on the physical, digital and social infrastructure needed to succeed. Make sure your agile workers are empowered with the time, the right workspace, and the right tools needed to deliver to the same high standards as they would at HQ.
Our clients at Harbour84 empower their staff to work from top quality fit-for-purpose flexible space by directing their employees towards our partner workspaces, vetted against our Agile Workspace Framework. This framework focuses on the 5-essential workspace pillars proven to support productivity and workplace wellness including design and set up, infrastructure, support and ecosystem – resulting in a curated collection of top quality external workspace available on demand, for flexible corporate use.
- FOSTER CONNECTIONS
Remember that even practiced business travellers and long-time remote workers can suffer feelings of disconnection, loneliness and increased stress (some great tips on how to combat this from HBR here). Encourage all remote workers, whether travelling or working from an alternative location to stay in touch with colleagues at HQ, making sure they are not missing any vital opportunities or pieces of information by virtue of being ‘on the move’ or ‘out of sight’.
Make best use of the amazing technological advancements such as Skype, Trello, Slack and myriad other platforms which have allowed us to collaborate with our teams, colleagues and clients from anywhere in the world – as a distributed team ourselves slack is our lifeblood. That said, online connections need to be balanced with face to face connections, and we agree with Forbes contributor Andrew Griffiths, that irrespective of how connected we become ‘online’, there is no replacement for ‘smart meetings’, and sometimes getting on that plane or train and engaging with colleagues and clients face to face can be an essential component to business success
Finally, encourage your agile employees to capitalise on existing external networks as well, such as can be found in coworking centres. Like Hadron Colliders for people, coworking spaces that are set up to encourage both individual focused work and collaborative work have been shown to foster innovation, productivity, and often the community can be a useful source of market intel and business opportunities. The people make the place, now make the place work for your people!
- DON’T IGNORE WORKPLACE WELLBEING
Workplace wellness is not new, but it is an increasingly popular topic among senior HR leaders with 50% of businesses surveyed by Small Biz Trends saying they have formal wellness programmes in place. Make sure this duty of care, and these initiatives, also extend to employees who are ‘out of sight’.
Empower employees to choose alternative workspaces with natural light, plants, and furniture that supports their posture. Make sure they stay well-nourished, taking proper breaks to eat and hydrate. Creativity and productivity rely on a healthy, happy, engaged employee brain, so take care of yours and encourage your employees to take care of theirs.
Additionally, make sure your employees understand how to schedule their days efficiently, factoring in preparation time and set-up time for any meetings, and time to switch off at the end of the work day so they can come to work on the following day refreshed, revived and engaged. The care and consideration you give to the workplace wellbeing of your employees will be paid back in spades in engagement, productivity and happiness.
Empower your agile workers to thrive
With greater opportunity than ever to personalise our lifestyle choices, it is natural we wish to find ways to support our mobile employees to feel connected and empowered at work in a way that is personal to them. If we can better understand and capture the subjective value of feeling Productive, Connected and Well during periods of business travel and off-site working, this could herald the start of a new, more bespoke relationship between an organisation and its flexible teams, with happiness and wellbeing at its core. One that supports all individuals to do their best work, anytime, anywhere.