Flexibility is a virtue in a rapidly changing business environment. Here are five areas where it pays to have a flexible attitude and consider altering your approach.
1. Setting working hours
There are business contexts where fixed hours are a necessity — if you're running a restaurant you need to be open at mealtimes, and if you're a retail outlet in a shopping centre your lease may dictate the hours when you have to be open. However, that doesn't mean that every role in your business has to adhere to the same schedule.
Tasks like bookkeeping have to be completed by a certain date, but within that framework what difference does it make if they're done on a 9-5 schedule, only during school hours or even after hours?
Businesses often only consider these issues when circumstances change for an individual employee. That's a good basis to start from, but it can also be worth examining whether your current work hours approach actually works for you, or whether you're doing it out of habit.
2. Choosing working locations
An extension to the previous point — for service-oriented businesses in particular, having everyone work in the one location simply because that's the way it has always been done doesn't always make sense. That's not to say that collaboration between colleagues isn't valuable, but with modern technology, it's not a requirement that everyone be in the same space. Adopting this approach sensibly can also help reduce rental expenses.
3. Setting pricing
It's the basic question that many businesses fail to ask themselves: Why do I charge the prices I do?
If your business isn't as profitable as you need or want it to be, then it can be worth adjusting the way you charge. If you typically charge per-hour, consider charging per project. Could your business work more efficiently on a subscription model? That provides greater certainty of income, even if the basic rates are lowered as a result.
These aren't decisions you can take lightly — careful analysis is required. But coming up with a new way of delivering services or products can open up entire new streams of revenue, a lesson that's been well-heeded by software-as-a-service providers, streaming music services, home food delivery outfits and many others.
4. Choosing workplace technology
We live in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) era — no matter what size your business is, it's very unlikely that there's a single technology platform which absolutely everyone is using. Even if you supply devices, some staff will still prefer to use their own.
While large enterprises often stress about deviation from their stated policies, small businesses have greater agility and can more readily embrace this trend. Rather than insisting everyone uses a particular model of laptop or phone, allow staff to use the device that best suits their needs.
5. Anywhere that can benefit the business
Flexible work arrangements are often discussed in terms of how they can benefit employees, but it's worth remembering that the business also benefits via employees who are happier, more productive and more likely to stick around. And that's the attitude
As futurist Ross Dawson put it in a discussion of work-life balance last year, there are real benefits from considering flexibility:
What is required is flexible work structures which bring out ultimately the talent of the people working in those organisations. No organisation fully taps the value of the people working within it. Even getting incrementally better at that would put most organisations miles ahead.
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