Agile/flexible working provides an opportunity to achieve a balance between work requirements and home life. Enabling a work life balance is a good management practice as it can reduce absenteeism, increase effectiveness and morale, improve commitment and help retain skilled staff.
Whilst there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach that’s been adopted across policing communications, the main principles for teams who have adopted a new style of working are likely to be around:
- Not all work being dependent on location – and as such, remote working away from the main workplace is increasing
- Effective working being more about how well people do their work and what they achieve as opposed to where or even when people work
- Doing work differently, focusing on performance and outcomes
- Utilising the benefits gained from changing working practices, utilising new technologies and creating new working environments
- Offering employee choice and empowerment around where and when they work, as long as their job can be done effectively.
Many policing communications teams across the country have adopted some element of agile/flexible working in their teams. Working in an agile way can provide a number of benefits to the employee and the organisation, including:
- Greater flexibility in working hours
- Higher quality work due to improved morale and fewer interruptions with greater concentration
- Retention/recruitment of employees – wider pool of candidates, greater diversity and inclusion
- Reduced travelling times, reducing environmental impact and carbon footprint
The challenges faced can include:
- Motivation and morale negatively affected
- Induction for new starters to ensure they feel part of the team
- Lack of trust
- Unsuitable home working environment
Due to the fact that each policing organisation and communications team may have adopted different approaches, it is not possible to write a guide to cover all scenarios. Instead, what has been provided below is a short ‘top tips’ toolkit for managers when managing an agile/flexible team, along with some links to some useful further reading about agile/flexible working.
Tips for managers when managing agile teams
Hold regular check-ins
Most of us like and even crave face-to-face interaction. When working remotely, our communication and interaction with our colleagues can be reduced, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Such feelings can have an impact on employee performance and motivation. There are many ways to increase and enhance connections and relationships within your remote team. The relationship that accounts for 70 per cent variance in employee engagement levels is the one between the employee and manager. Managers should make efforts to hold regular check-ins with their staff.
Many experts recommend you hold performance catch-ups weekly or fortnightly. This gives employee and manager the opportunity to discuss welfare, performance, obstacles, goals and training. It also allows managers and staff to exchange feedback. When employee and manager
meet regularly, meetings become less formal and more open and spontaneous, meaning conversations are ultimately more informative and productive. Employees are also much more likely to open up and discuss what support they might need or how they might be struggling.
Set clear expectations and objectives
Employees, remote or not, will suffer in terms of morale and engagement if they are set unrealistic or unclear expectations. From the outset, employees need to know what is expected of them. They need to know what they are doing and how they should be doing it. Unless there is a solid and clear goal-setting system, they can’t expect work to get done to standard or in time.
There are a number of performance management tools out there that allow managers to create, set and track employee goals. However, these need to be complemented by good communication. Employees need to know
they can get in touch with their managers at any time for clarification or concerns regarding goals. And managers need to be proactive about explaining why certain expectations have been laid out, and how the organisation could be affected if employees don’t play their part. When employees know what is expected of them and how they can go about accomplishing their goals, they will feel more secure and able to perform their roles. What’s more, if employees work alongside managers to create their own goals, they’ll feel a sense of ownership that will motivate them further.