In today’s connected world, there is no need for workers to be chained to the desk all day. Here’s why an agile, mobile workforce may be a good option for Irish firms.

In the digitally connected age, we are all mobile now. Workers can benefit from the option of agile working. Such agility works well for employers too.

Companies benefit from increased productivity, lowers rates of absenteeism, lower employee turnover and a more engaged workforce.

How to manage agile workers

Benefits will only be realised, however, if employees have clear parameters within which to operate.

Managers must consider a range of issues including a hot-desking policy, their own management style, flexible working agreements, performance management, IT infrastructure, HR policies and operational processes.

“Measure performance based on productivity rather than the number of hours worked.”

Substantial savings for employers

The business case for ‘agile working’ is compelling. Companies can have a large workforce without the need for a large office space. 

Challenges

Some challenges must be overcome if agile working is to succeed. While the key to success lies in a holistic and integrated approach, employers must be careful that they strike the right balance.

Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, created a storm when she banned working from home from June 2013 and ordered remote workers to report to the office. According to Jody Thompson, cofounder of workforce consultants CultureRx, “Mayer [took] a giant leap backwards. Instead of keeping great talent, she is going to find herself in a workplace full of people who are good at showing up and putting in time.”

Irish firms would do well to learn from Mayer’s blanket ban and imbue an agile working culture that strikes the right balance. 

13 ways to build a mobile, agile workforce

  • Appoint a champion and cross-functional working group, which should include senior management;
  • Analyse current working processes and procedures, and critically assess where and when they are done.
  • Critically evaluate the role of IT and imbue IT throughout your agile working initiatives.
  • Measure performance based on productivity rather than the number of hours worked.
  • Introduce accountability structures that have little to do with where people are located and everything to do with the projects that need to be delivered to produce pre-determined and agreed on results.
  • Change your organisation’s culture by demonstrating the desired behaviours at senior and middle management level.
  • Build communication structures that allow for collaborative thinking.
  • Engage with employees to efficiently and successfully implement the programme but remember, agile working is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution so be prepared to be flexible.
  • Challenge traditional assumptions and departmental silos by thinking about how units interact and communicate.
  • Conduct an office space audit by assessing the occupancy rates of desks and also, the level of ‘possession’ employees attribute to their space.
  • Develop an active working policy document that is suited to your organisation, your jobs, and your culture.
  • Conduct a pilot programme. You can phase in or test the initiatives to gauge organisational readiness and address issues as they arise.
  • Build in regular review periods to monitor progress.
 
Baker Tilly Ryan Glennon

This article is by Catherine Corcoran who heads up the HR and management consulting division of Baker Tilly Ryan Glennon. She has over 20 years’ experience in senior management and HR roles across a variety of sectors – public service, retail and professional services. Main image from Shutterstock.