Resource 9 - Tips for leaders, managers, employees and teams15

 

TIPS FOR LEADERS – leading flexible-by-default agencies: You are likely to be familiar with and already operate in many of the ways suggested below. If you are not already leading flexible agencies, however, we hope that some of these suggestions will be useful.

Raise awareness and gain buy-in by:

  • promoting the benefits of flexible working for the organisation and for employees (see Resource 3 for the benefits of flexible working)
  • promoting the Principles of flexible-by-default (see Part one: page 3) putting flexible-by-default on the strategic and leadership team agendas.

Lead culture change across the agency by:

  • visibly role modelling flexible working
  • modelling an ‘if not, why not’ approach when responding to flexible working requests from direct reports
  • ‘sense-checking’ for your own bias when responding to issues and making decisions related to flexible working
  • challenging resistance to flexible working and/or the emergence of any negative outcomes, like work intensification or expectations of employees being available 24/7
  • sharing and working through any challenges you experience with employees and managers across the agency.

Embedding flexible-by- default within your agency by:

  • aligning flexible-by-default with wider organisational strategy
  • nominating one of your leadership team to lead implementation
  • allocating resources to take the actions recommended in this resource
  • reviewing data and information to ensure flexible-by-default is operating effectively and contributing to organisational goals.

 

TIPS FOR MANAGERS – managing flexible-by-default teams. You are likely to be familiar with, and already operate in many of the ways suggested below. If you are not already working with flexible teams, however, we hope that some of these suggestions will be useful.

Raise awareness about flexible working by:

  • sharing the Summary of flexible-by-default key messages (page A) and the Principles of flexible-by-default (see Part one: page 3) especially the principles on ‘Works for the role’, ‘Works for team’, ‘Mutually beneficial’ and ‘Requires give and take’
  • discussing benefits and opportunities presented by flexible working AND the challenges and how these can be addressed – don’t wait for individual requests to have these conversations
  • ensuring employees know where to find information on your agency’s flexible- by-default policy and how to make requests
  • sharing information on the types of flexible working available to your team (see Resource 2), any options that might be impractical or unworkable and why (see Part one: page 11)
  • ensuring that employees making the request know that involving the team is part of the process
  • ensuring that privacy considerations are met (e.g. the reasons for a request are only relevant when discussing what type of flex options might work and an employee may not want these reasons shared with others in the team).

Foster cohesion by:

  • adopting a team-based approach to managing flexible For instance, when you have approved a request, discuss how it will be managed with your team. Enable team members to raise any concerns and work through these as a team
  • being aware that most teams work with other teams in an agency and ensuring that you and your team also consider the impact of flexible arrangements on other teams and how this aspect of your team’s responsibilities can be managed
  • involving the team in setting flexible working norms, such as clarifying when and where team members are working, when and how they can be reached
  • treating off-site employees as if they were in the office and avoiding shifting incidental or urgent work to employees you can see
  • avoiding siloed working. One team member may lead a piece of work while another team member in a supporting role can provide coverage when a flexible employee is not working. This will also provide coverage when an employee is sick or on leave
  • setting regular times when the team can meet face-to-face and if this is not possible use teleconferencing technology.

Clarify respective expectations and responsibilities with flexible employees by:

  • being clear that flexible arrangements need to work for the agency, the team and the employee
  • being clear that flexible employees are responsible for maintaining delivery and that you will trust them to do this
  • considering review periods to test how arrangements are working with the agency, the team and the employee
  • making regular times to review how things are going with employees working flexibly and the team, and whether adjustments or clarifications are needed
  • agreeing when and how flexible employees will be available, how they can be contacted and whether they can shift times and hours to cover unexpected work and/or times when face-to-face (kanohi ki te kanohi) engagement is important, such as in Māori settings, with Ministers, when establishing relationships with stakeholders, or when discussing sensitive or tough issues
  • recording agreements with your employee – an email may be sufficient.

Support employee wellbeing when employees work remotely by:

  • maintaining regular professional and informal contacts, remembering that you will have fewer incidental opportunities to check the health and wellbeing of employees working remotely and ensure they continue to feel part of the team
  • encouraging regular informal interactions between team members working in the office and those working remotely
  • being clear that employees working remotely are not expected to be available at any hour
  • encouraging employees to take breaks and establish clear distinctions about when they are ‘at work’ and when they are not
  • additional tips for teams working remotely in emergencies are available at 8 Ways to Manage Your Team While Social Distancing and Leading teams during Covid-19.

Foster inclusion within the team by:

  • taking an ‘if not, why not’ approach to requests for flexible arrangements from all team members
  • distributing work evenly – employees working flexibly need to share in both the urgent, unexpected work and the long-term, challenging projects
  • treating employees working offsite as if they were in the office and avoid shifting incidental or urgent work to employees you can see
  • distributing development opportunities equitably – flexible workers, especially part-time workers, can miss out on these opportunities and this can contribute to slower career progression
  • ensuring that in meetings you deliberately make space for the contributions of people who are participating remotely.

Support culture change by:

  • considering how you can visibly model flexible working, if you don’t already
  • ‘sense checking’ for your own bias when responding to requests. For instance, when an employee discusses their reason for wanting a flexible working arrangement, and you explore what options might work, is your response more positive when the reason is familiar (such as, female employees with caring responsibilities) and less positive when the reason is unfamiliar (such as, employees with cultural or religious responsibilities)
  • ‘sense checking’ for assumptions about flexible workers, such as that they are less committed to their work or able to take on stretch roles
  • guarding against the emergence of negative outcomes like work intensification or expectations of employees being available 24/7
  • highlighting and sharing examples of flexibility working well
  • seeking support from other managers, your HR team and/or professional learning if you are facing challenges.

Manage outcomes and trust by

  • setting clear expectations about quality standards and timelines for delivery
  • focusing on the outputs produced by team members, more than how, where and/or when they are achieved
  • communicating what you need from your team to feel confident their work is on track
  • discussing performance regularly, rather than waiting for formal review times, when the stakes are higher
  • planning work allocation with the team so everyone knows what work is being done by who. This can support accountability for delivery within the team
  • remembering that when you have many team members working remotely, the structure and processes that work naturally in an office need to be replaced with more deliberate communications and expectations.

Distinguish between issues with the flexible arrangement and performance issues by:

  • regularly discussing how the flexible arrangement is working. This will help ensure solutions to any issues with the arrangement itself are addressed as they arise
  • having assured yourself that the flexible arrangement is not the problem. If there are performance issues with an employee who works flexibly, deal with them as you would for an employee who doesn’t work flexibly.

Consider solving business problems by:

  • considering when flexible working may provide solutions to business problems (e.g. to help fill hard-to-fill roles, to extend coverage of service delivery or during peak work periods)
  • considering whether changes to the nature and scope of roles within your team might make flexible options more workable while delivering on team objectives.

Contribute to continuous improvement by:

  • sharing your experiences, including challenges, with other managers and human resources teams as part of the agency’s monitoring process.

a family walks together through the City

Flexible work can support employees to balance their community life with work life in a way that supports the work of the agency too

 

TIPS FOR EMPLOYEES WORKING FLEXIBLY. You are likely to be familiar with and already operate in many of the ways suggested below. If you are not already working flexibly, however, we hope that some of these suggestions will be useful.

If requesting flexible working, prepare yourself by:

  • familiarising yourself with the Principles of flexible-by-default (see Part one: page 3), especially the principles on ‘Works for the role’, ‘Works for the team’, ‘Mutually beneficial’ and ‘Requires give and take’
  • familiarising yourself with your agency’s flexible-by-default policies including the flexible working options which might work for your type of role
  • reviewing the tips in this guide for managers and teams so you are familiar with shared expectations
  • being prepared to discuss any impacts with your manager and the team. You do not have to have the answers when you make a request but be prepared for this conversation.

Clarify respective expectations and responsibilities with your manager by:

  • asking your manager what they need from you to feel confident that your work is on track
  • being aware of your work responsibilities outside your immediate team
  • letting your manager know if you can shift your hours or location when unexpected work arises or face-to-face engagement (kanohi ki te kanohi) is important and agreeing whether you can trade with other hours or days off
  • having ongoing review conversations with your manager about how the arrangement is working and helping find solutions to any issues if they arise
  • being aware that if the arrangement is no longer mutually beneficial, managers and employees should discuss what has changed and consider alternative arrangements.

Contribute to team cohesion by:

  • sharing your hours and contact details with colleagues (including with colleagues you work with outside your immediate team) by:
    • using your calendar to show when you are working remotely
    • stating your hours/days in your signature block
    • using out of office email and voicemail when you are unavailable, include when you will respond in the message
  • maintaining professional and informal contacts with your colleagues, if you work remotely or different hours, remembering that you may have fewer incidental opportunities for updates and check-ins with colleagues.

Self-manage by:

  • developing your time management skills if necessary
  • talking with your manager about how they would like to be kept in touch with your progress and with any risks to delivery. If you are working remotely or different hours you may have fewer incidental opportunities for updates and check-ins with your manager
  • briefing your manager in advance if a work issue might arise in times or on days you are not working, including how you propose the issue be dealt with.

Make the most of the available technology by:

  • seeking support to upskill in your agency’s technology, if you need to e.g. to support self-management, team collaboration etc.
  • seeking ‘workarounds’ where technology solutions are unavailable and sharing what you have learnt with other flexible workers.

Contribute to continuous improvement of flexible-by-default by:

  • proactively discussing with your manager any issues with your flexible-working arrangement and helping to find solutions
  • considering recording the times you work if you work non-traditional hours or off site. This can help you identify if you are working more than your agreed hours and help you if you need to raise this with your manager
  • sharing your experiences, including challenges, with other employees across the agency as part of the agency’s monitoring process.

 

TIPS FOR WORKING IN FLEXIBLE TEAMS

Prepare to work in a flexible team by:

  • familiarising yourself with the Principles of flexible-by-default (see Part one: page 3), especially the principles on ‘Works for the role’, ‘Works for the team’, ‘Mutually beneficial’ and ‘Requires give and take’
  • familiarising yourself with your agency’s flexible-by-default policies including the flexible working options which might work for the types of roles in your team
  • ‘sense-checking’ any personal bias that might influence your responses to others’ flexible working
  • accepting that everyone should have equal access to flexible working, regardless of their personal situation or context.

Take a team approach to making flexibility work by:

  • discussing how flexible arrangements might affect the work of the team and raising any concerns you might have
  • participating in finding solutions to any issues or concerns.

Contribute to team cohesion by:

  • reviewing the above tips for managers and employees as a team so everyone is clear about the shared expectations associated with flexible working
  • considering developing a team charter or amending an existing charter to establish common norms of behaviour around flexible working
  • maintaining the same level of professional and social contact with off-site colleagues as you would if they were working in the office, remembering you may have fewer incidental opportunities for updates and check-ins with colleagues.

15Resource 9 has been adapted from the NSW Public Service Commission development guides for managers, leaders and employees: https://www.psc.nsw.gov.au/workplace-culture---diversity/flexible-working © State of New South Wales acting through the Public Service Commission.

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