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Flexible working, on acid

Many of us have worked in companies that are strict and rigid with working patterns. I’m thinking here about the 9-5 slog, 30 mins for lunch, 25 days holiday, cubicles, desks and toxic meetings. And the daily 1hr commute.

It’s modern day slavery with a twist; you are also paid the bare minimum for the work you do. Most folks pensions are now in the toilet so you’re expected to work in that soul-destroying environment till past 70 years of age.

Companies operating in this “Dickensian” may survive, there is still a recession on and jobs are likely to be tight for a few years, but they are hardly likely to prosper. The new breed of company leaders are much more savvy to the needs of the individual soul. Feed the soul and watch creativity and efficiency flourish, immeasurably.

A key part of feeding the soul, and therefore attracting/retaining talent, is working with your teams to customise both their job and how they carry it out. Work is what you do, not where you go to every day. This means time & location independent working, trusting your teams to deliver what your clients need and recognising their creativity and success.

Of course, when you cut the office ties your target labour pool shifts from “up to 90 mins from the office” and becomes “the world”. The Connected team includes folks from London, Yorkshire, South West, Midlands, Spain, Eastern US & Australia.

To make this happen we use productivity and social tools such as Podio, Skype & Zendesk to glue the folks together. We do understand the value of face-to-face so bring the company together as and when we need it, but Skype and social tools go a long way to building bonds that deliver.

Aside from efficiency and deliverability, the greatest noticeable gain is the level of enjoyment, or morale. The super-high level of engagement translates into near zero absenteeism and zero staff turnover. The team at Connected feel they are in control of their lives and share a common vision, it’s quite a “community” sensation.

Trusting people to “get the job done” regardless of location or time is not new but not widely adopted. Old-fashioned “command and control” businesses struggle to adapt to new thinking and will struggle with high fixed costs, poor productivity, indifferent staff and limited innovation. They may try, at the surface, to copy the new approach but this comes from the heart, and top down.

The same applies with the staff. There is a trade-off, and we call it “tethering” – frequently the best work or ideas come at the strangest of times and places. This does need to be harnessed. All your staff do need to be bought into the vision, it only takes one “jobs worth” to put a spanner in the work.

We’ve embraced independent working since day one, in 1996. Over the years we’ve expanded and extended our definitions to the point we are now; operating 100% location independent with no time management, unlimited holidays and time independence. It’s taken some time, a strong will and a committed team … and it doesn’t stop here. Not until we are all digital nomads!

By Martin Dower