We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Racing around trying to get the dog organised, kids sorted and self looking presentable to arrive at the office for 9am like that’s all you’ve had to worry about. We’ve also all most likely heard that tut when you’re two minutes late or had a poor attendance record because it keeps on happening. And we’ve probably all had time off work to let in the heating engineer or be home for a sick child or get to the hospital for an appointment.
So what if it was possible to have a happier and more productive workforce by ripping up the policies and letting people decide for themselves when, where and how they work? Would you do it? You should definitely give it some thought.
This is on my mind right now because I’ve had a hectic start to the year. With a new dog, hospital visits for my mother in law, surgery for myself and the pooch, I’ve been dashing from one place to another trying to make sure everyone is ok and then arriving at work pretending everything is normal. It’s made me miss my previous workstyle (not lifestyle) where the focus was on what I delivered and not whether I was there or how long I sat at my desk.
In my former role, my team had cast away the shackles of time and space and embraced a results-based approach. This idea was developed after reading work on the Results Only Working Environment (ROWE) which has become prominent over the last few years. We didn’t follow it in its purest form but based our own model on the general premise of results not time.
How it worked in practice was to agree with each individual what they were expected to deliver and what ‘good’ would look like and we caught up on a regular basis to make sure everything was on track. It meant that my team was empowered to get on with the job and trusted to get it right which in turn meant they were motivated to succeed and delivered above and beyond what was expected of them.
The first time I heard this idea, it was in the news that Virgin were letting employees have unlimited annual leave. It sounds unrealistic but actually is manageable when individuals start being accountable for what they have done and not how long they were in the office. It also means you can get all your tasks completed whether in the office or at home or elsewhere! Does someone need to finish early to go to the vet? No problem. Do they need to work from home to keep an eye on the sick dog? Sure thing. Do they want to work at the in-law’s so they can get to the hospital for visiting hours? Absolutely. People can manage their time however they see fit, providing they deliver the agreed results.
You might still be thinking ‘but if they are not in the office, how do I know they are working?’ You know because they will do the things they agreed and if they don’t then it’s a performance issue. How do you know they are working when they are sat at their desk? You don’t generally, you just feel better because you can see them in front of you. Maybe you are also thinking that if you let people just do what they need to then they will do as little as possible. My experience of managing a team in this way taught me that providing you have empowered and motivated them in the right way, when they run out of things to do, they will find more.
Many employers think that allowing employees to work flexibly is a nice perk but actually, it can remove stress, reduce sickness absence and increase productivity which means that employers get more for their money. My experience with results-based working found that it encourages people to work smarter and think more about what they are doing and how they can invest their time on things that will deliver the best results. What’s not to like?