Working flexibly: 5 shifts in work patterns that managers need to know

Written by Mark Rowland - 09 July 2019

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With patterns of work changing fast, you need to be aware of the changes as you step into new management roles. This article outlines everything you need to know.

Do you expect to work flexibly? A lot of people do. Fully flexible working is becoming more and more common in workplaces in a number of sectors. The workplace is also increasingly global. As a result, teams are spread across locations with varying degrees of autonomy. And you’ll have to manage them.

CMI’s Management 4.0 campaign Patterns of Work report takes a look at the way that work and management is transforming, including patterns of work. It outlines five trends that any future manager needs to be aware of.

You’ll need to manage ‘down time’

The technology that allows us to work flexibly also encourages us to never stop. According to the Management 4.0 report, the more technology that teams use, the more they end up working out of hours, never really switching off from their work. Known as ‘always on’ culture or digital presenteeism, it can fuel employee burnout and impact negatively on mental health. Future managers will need to keep a close eye on their employee’s activities, and ensure they touch base regularly with remote workers to check how they’re coping.

Your team will be constantly changing

The idea of a single career, or a long-term position, will be rare in the future. People will be driven by much more than money when progressing their careers. They are looking for purpose, excitement and something that aligns with their current preferences. As a result, employees will move around frequently, and for unpredictable reasons.

“Both men and women plan to ensure that they achieve their work and life priorities throughout their career,” states the Women’s Network Forum report, Fuelling Gender Diversity. “This multi-staged path will see them moving in and out of corporate careers, small companies, entrepreneurial ventures and self-employment over a life-long career with parenthood often triggering a new stage in the life-cycle for both men and women.”

Employees might be ‘gigging’

As the gig economy grows, more and more workers are working portfolio careers – working in more than one workplace on a variety of projects. Proponents of the gig lifestyle claim that improves job satisfaction and mental wellbeing, as well as bringing in more income. Working with gigging workers can be a double-edged sword – while they are highly motivated, they’re also spreading their talents, which can potentially halt development. It can be difficult to persuade companies to invest in people who are sharing their skills and experience elsewhere, but it will need to be managed.

Infinite flexibility will encourage diversity

To ensure a level playing field, a number of different flexible working options will need to be provided to staff. These include working from home, compressed hours, term-time hours and flexi-time. As a result, traditional 9-to-5 hours will become less prevalent, which poses some management challenges. However, Pam Dyson CPFA FMAAT CMgr FCMI predicts that what we monitor and manage will change.

“Technology, applied well, can help to realign the focus on human ability and reduce the confines of physical inability, poor communication and mobility limitations. A person is the same person 24 hours a day, wherever they are, whatever they are doing. Organisations will benefit if they embrace the idea that a balanced and equal workplace can lead to optimisation of the objectives of the whole workforce as well as the organisation itself. Technology strategies need to reflect that.”

You’ll need to be ‘agile’

Workplace structures will potentially become wider, flatter and less hierarchical. Managers and leaders will need to be proactive in building and managing team cultures. They will need to proactively engage with teams and increase their flexibility in line with a more flexible workplace. It’s not without its challenges, but if you’re aware of them, you’ll be ready to change your mindset and techniques.

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Mark Rowland

Mark Rowland is a senior writer. He has worked as a business journalist and editor for 15 years, and has won awards for his writing and editing. He has also overseen the launch and continuous development of new websites and publications.

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