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Want more efficient, productive and effective staff? Then let them work where, when and how they choose

9 June 2015

 A new report from the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (enei) has found that employers are failing to maximise the business benefits of their workforce because of a reliance on the traditional office based working pattern. The survey of personality types in agile workers, described as employees who work where, when and how they choose – with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints, found that agile workers are more efficient, productive and effective than those working traditional patterns. In addition, employees with an agile working pattern were more flexible and had higher levels of job satisfaction.

The research, sponsored by Santander & DWF, involved 584 employees and managers from six major private and public sector organisations, who were asked to:

1. Complete an employees’ ways of working questionnaire;

2. Send a request to their line manager asking them to complete a manager’s questionnaire; and

3. Complete a personality profile questionnaire.

The personality profiling used the DiSC personality test, which profiles individuals into the dominant, influential, steadfast and conscientious types. Other findings from the research included the importance of considering the needs of the different personality types of employees when making the transition to an Agile Working environment.

The research found that:

  • Dominant employees are most likely to enjoy the control available by agile working, and will be focussed, needing minimal supervision or interaction.
  • Influential employees will require strong management through direction, expectation setting and opportunities to communicate with the wider team and may need more regular communication than others.
  • Steadfast employees may find agile working harder to adapt to and be more likely to work 9-5 anyway.
  • Conscientious employees are likely to thrive in an agile working environment without distractions, but require supervision to ensure that they do not work too many hours and burn out.

Organisations need to focus on of the factors that contribute to effective performance for agile working, specifically communication, diary management and technology such as:

  • The provision of laptop computers
  • Good remote access to files
  • Application systems that work well when used remotely
  • Fast reliable networks

The research also identified obstacles to the implementation of agile working, including the issues of team working and managing agile workers. The lack of face to face interaction between agile workers, their colleagues and their line managers can be overcome through the use of effective communications and conferencing facilities, and through manager training. The research found that if managers are not good role models or fail to be ambassadors for agile working its implementation has less chance of sustained success.

The research’s final finding is a warning to organisations looking for a quick boost to staff efficiency and productivity. The survey shows that more employees were rated as exceptional where the agile working initiative is employee-led rather than employer-led. While there are clear business benefits from organisations adopting agile working, the performance benefits are likely to be greater when staff are involved in its implementation.

Commenting on the results, enei chief executive Denise Keating said:

“The results of our survey clearly state the business case for agile working. Whilst many roles do by their very nature require a person to be in a certain place at a specific time many workers work the traditional 9-5 pattern in their organisation’s office simply because of societal norms. By breaking down these norms through the adoption of agile working, and involving staff, our research shows that efficiency, productivity, effectiveness, flexibility and job satisfaction all increase.

“This is the Holy Grail of the HR professional, but simply selling the office building and sending home the workers is not enough. Our research identified many factors required to achieve these benefits, including IT infrastructure, identification of individual employee needs and the challenge of maintaining communication and teamwork when workers are physically distanced."

enei Members can read the full report here.

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