Dolly Parton may have famously sung about working 9-5, but traditional office hours are on their way out. Online connectivity and the remote work movement have created a professional set-up that’s more flexible than ever. But how can you offer staff the freedom they want, while still running a tight-knit, productive business?

As more and more companies let teams set their own start and finished times, we look at why every company should be thinking in shift patterns to make sure flexible working drives profitable growth.

Moving to a flexible working model

From retail to healthcare, many sectors have built their success on shift-based scheduling. And this staggered approach is now being adopted by companies who used to be committed to 9-5.

Multinational professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is the latest major company to end standard office hours, recently announcing that its employees can start and finish work when they want. Meanwhile BAM Construct UK has just declared that greater flexibility in construction work schedules would benefit the entire industry.

There’s no doubt that staff morale, productivity and loyalty can be boosted by taking a fluid approach to working structure. Employees achieve a better work/life balance by determining their own hours; they can centre days around the times they are most productive; and they can schedule-in commitments like doctor’s appointments, dentist check-ups and going to the gym, all of which keep them fitter and healthier. Plus, if you encourage them to work flexible and they’re happy in their job as a result, they’ve got no reason to look elsewhere.

However, there are a few things your company needs to consider before you jump straight into a flexible working model. For example, how do you…

  • Ensure each person is doing their allotted hours and no more (unless part of an agreed overtime arrangement)
  • Give employees visibility of when their colleagues are working so they can manage deadlines, set external meetings and plan internal catch-ups
  • Make sure the right people are available at the right time – for example, there aren’t long periods with no senior staff present, and a representative from each department or skillset is available at all times
  • Allocate daily tasks across your company, factoring-in specific skills and qualifications that may be required
  • Identify any resourcing issues – for instance, staff shortages due to people booking time off – and fill those gaps as quickly and painlessly as possible

All of these challenges can be resolved by thinking of your company as a shift-based business, and running your schedules and staffing communications through online shift planning software.

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Adopting a shift-based mindset

Shift planning systems aren’t something most companies would consider, but when you start looking at flexible working as a series of individual shift patterns, they make sense. The only difference between your approach and a traditionally shift-based organisation is that each staff members sets their own schedule – rather than someone being responsible for the rota.

Running your infrastructure through rostering technology will give you a complete overview of who is working when, which can be viewed by anyone in your company. This makes it really easy for people to choose appropriate hours, communicate with colleagues when they are actively working, and add meetings to the diary at a time that works for all involved.

At a senior level, shift planning software also helps you to manage the impact of flexible working, to ensure you’re driving bottom line performance. For example, you can set guidelines around how many people from each department or management level should be working at any point in time. And if a particular schedule doesn’t meet this requirement, the software will flag this up.

You can also manage tasks online, to ensure that critical duties are completed even when you’re not on shift. And the most sophisticated tools on the market have a task management feature that enables you to set criteria for who can carry out certain jobs, if they require specific skills or certifications.

Flexible, visible, communicative working

Thinking of your business as shift-based can require a big change in mindset, but abandoning the notion of 9-5 is the quickest way to become truly flexible. So long as everyone sticks to their contracted hours, completes their core tasks, and meets internal and external expectations, nothing else really matters.

The secret to a well-run flexible business is clear visibility and communication – and both of these things can be delivered through shift planning software. Investing in a solution that helps your team structure their working days and manage regular tasks will ensure everyone contributes to company objectives, in a way that benefits each person individually.

WhosOffice is an online shift planning tool for businesses. To find out how you can coordinate staff schedules and manage key tasks using WhosOffice, book a free trial.

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