Standard Working Practices v Flexible Working – Who Wins?

Take a look at this brilliant RSA Animate piece on ‘Re-Imaging Work’.  It has made my colleague, Emma Weir, take a closer look at standardisation and the issues employees face when they need to work more flexibly. Here are her thoughts.

Working for Kronos, a billion dollar business founded on standardisation, I have to disagree that standardisation is all negative. However achieving cost savings through standardisation whilst offering employee engaging flexibility does seem to be at odds with each other.

Last week I attended the The Manufacturer magazine’s Directors Conference in Manchester. It was attended by leaders keen on improving employee engagement across a range of manufacturing disciplines, from bed pans to missiles. One manager told me that they were moving to a brand new, more efficient facility shortly and had been told “the employees will be fine about it”. Fortunately she didn’t agree with this massive assumption of how easily employees can adapt, and having been through an office closure recently myself, I am glad she felt that way.

Cost savings and standardisation have an emotional impact on the employee that can severely knock their engagement with a company. My office was recently closed as the demand for virtual training meant we no longer needed classrooms in our facility and now we have a hot desk facility set up in another town. I am lucky that Kronos gives me the flexibility to freely choose where I work (hot desk or home) as long as I record my time on my phone through the Kronos application so my hours are tracked and managed. So this is great, we have achieved a cost saving with standardisation.

On the flipside though I have found that every week I choose a different pattern of home and office work thinking that “this is the one” as I struggle to balance my ever changing workload with the right environment to get the most results – Do I need quiet and focus? Do I need to be locked away from the distractions of working from home? Do I need company and chatter around me to fuel energy, to collaborate? This constant reassessment of where to work is something none of us could predict and I see many of my colleagues and clients going through the same thought processes.

One thing that is true is the extra hours I do to over-compensate for the fear that people who don’t see me think I am not working. This is built into so many minds – including my own – and it has spurred me to build better relationships with my co-workers as I spend more time actively communicating what I am doing and engaging them in my projects – as well as working longer hours of course!

The moral to the story is that when we are looking to find efficiencies that strengthen our business we must always look to our most important asset, our people, and try and predict and understand the emotional impact of any change so that a quick financial gain does not result in a long term productivity hit.

Follow Emma on Twitter @EmmaWeir



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