Flexible working – it’s as important for a businesses as it is for a gymnast

It used to be that the only job with a prerequisite of flexibility was gymnastics. Those of us old enough will remember marvelling at the performances of the Russian gymnast Olga Korbut or Romania’s Nadia Comăneci who between them won 15 medals including 9 golds across multiple events spanning 3 Olympic games. They were ground breakers who were world class across all areas, winning medals in balance beam, uneven bars, floor exercises, vault, all-round and team.  It didn’t matter what they were asked to do, or what piece of apparatus they were required to use they excelled. They were years ahead of their competitors and had the skills, flexibility and adaptability to flourish. Alongside their talent ran an extremely harsh training regime, and a level of determination and hard work, without which they would not have achieved such incredible success.

How flexible working works.

Successful businesses have for many years adapted to changes to the marketplace and by doing so remained relevant, competitive and in demand. Those that have failed to adapt have either gone out of business or been taken over by a competitor – remember Woolworth’s, BHS and Athena, and international brands such as Compaq, Commodore and Kodak all of whom either gone completely or been reduced to niche trading.

All of these businesses either had no desire to change so chose to ignore long-term trends and falling sales or couldn’t adapt due to their business model being based upon traditional long-term financial commitments and high borrowings. They were as inflexible as an icicle whilst their business dripped away.

Today our challenges are more immediate; we simply have to adapt. Never has change needed to be made so quickly and by so many across so many sectors. But the good news is that the technology exists at affordable prices to enable businesses to become truly flexible by making the necessary changes.

The changes that make flexible working possible.

Home working is now here to stay and there are multiple ways of ensuring that your staff can be fully productive and monitored at home. A simple home set up of a laptop and phone is possible in almost every home now. Common complaints such as ‘my router is too far away from where I work to have a desk phone’ can be overcome with either a trusty, long cat5 cable, or utilising wi-fi phones or softphones for laptops with headsets. Even the thickest internal cob walls can be sidestepped using good wi-fi access points correctly located.

What if flexible working isn’t possible?

If employees have poor landline broadband then alternatives such as good 4G with external aerials, point to point broadband, or bonding a couple of broadband lines together can be adopted. And if all this fails then modern cloud or IP telephony will allow calls to be forwarded, potentially at no cost, to home numbers or mobiles without giving away personal numbers. If it’s set up correctly your customers will have no idea that they are speaking with home workers. And mobile apps that run alongside cloud telephones or modern IP based phone systems also allow your staff to be part of the office system whilst on their mobile.

Flexible working won’t affect productivity.

Combining cloud telephony with other services such as Zoom will mean that you can have meaningful face-to-face video calls (when you wish to!) whilst utilising the better telephone call handling that systems offer for everyday conversations.

Don’t worry about not being able to see if staff are working – most phone systems will highlight if a remote user is on the phone as if they were in the office. Furthermore, simple, cost effective software is available that will provide you with comprehensive information on call volumes, peak times, etc. And if you wish to be able to monitor how clients are being dealt with then call recording is easy to enable and can be a real benefit.

Flexible working makes your business more resilient.

So all this technology means that you can comfortably move staff home with the knowledge that your communication can be as good, if not better, than on your business premises. But maybe more importantly in these times, the flexibility this kind of technology also gives your business makes it more capable to adapt to changes as you need to in response to market fluctuations and/or customer requirements.

In the last 6 months we have gone from everyone except key workers to work from home, to work in the office if you can, to definitely work in the office, and now back to work from home again. In such a changeable environment you need to make sure that you work with a communications partner that allows you to change your services at short notice and without penalty or a new commitment to an inflexible 5 year term (or even longer!). We hardly know what’s in line for 2021 let alone 2025 so make sure you choose a technology partner carefully and avoid old style ‘tied in’ suppliers.

If your business wants to become as flexible as Olga or Nadia then you will have to put in some hard work to ensure it’s right, but hopefully the result will mean your business makes it to a gold medal standard.

[Photo from index by Elmarie van Rooyen on Unsplash]

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