Flexible work - free, freer, most free?

In Germany's companies, hardly any other topic is currently as big and important as "flexible working" and "new work organisation". We - at Full Moon - have also been pushing this strongly since the beginning of the year. Flexible working hours have now been introduced in almost all six units.

In order to find a well-functioning working model, discussions were held with the individual employees on the following question:

"How would you like to work?"

Different models were tried out for each unit - with the agreement of the managers.

The difficult part of this process is finding the ideal model. With good systems or models, people like to work more independently and at the same time can experience support from superiors and managers. This is why we have tested various models for around a month while the system was running. In this way, we wanted to find out whether employees' ideas and wishes could be implemented or whether key points had been overlooked. At the same time, this ensured that everyone gradually became accustomed to the new working time models and found out about their own preferences. After the test phases and the insights gained, the following key points for the working methods of the full mooners were introduced at the agency:

  • The focus is on the customer, the team and our own tasks.
  • There is a core presence from 10am to 4pm daily.
  • Home office can be used by employees in terms of their To Do's and after consultation with the team.
  • If the project makes it possible, the Full Mooners should take the necessary free time to recharge their batteries.

 

Since then, our full mooners have used the home office up to 50%, if at all. The exchange with colleagues at their own fixed place in the Full Moon Base is indispensable for many, as Full Moon lives strongly from direct networking. The Full Mooners therefore clearly insist on having their own workplace. Some even work only in the agency because they have to access internal company systems or are simply not the type for home office.

Of course, there are also voices that do not view flexible work very positively. In some units, flexible working is not or hardly ever practised, and working on the basis of tasks is certainly not practised. Leaving earlier when there is less to do is still unpleasant. In addition, some managers have the feeling that their employees are less "controllable" and less tangible. This often results in even more control. This is because the feeling of losing control provokes a reaction that has a negative impact. The problem is not that managers and supervisors do not want flexible work arrangements. A new approach is needed in the course of work transformation in order to build trust in employees and the way tasks are carried out.

The good thing is: In contrast to companies that have been thrown back or given up completely as a result, our aim is not to stagnate and stand still during this phase. It is important that employees say when things don't work out so that solutions can be found. A new system is to be developed, but it can only adapt to the employees if they are involved and actively participate themselves. The change in work is a matter of concern for each of us!

Our conclusion:

Full Moon says that the use of a place other than one's own workplace should be optional. No pressure or competition between colleagues. That's how it can work well! But not everyone is made for this kind of work organisation. Some employees would like to work flexibly, but other employees would not. The decision should be left up to the employees and not be imposed on them. The offer is there, but the use is voluntary.

But the changes are just beginning. In order to take final stock and to get used to the new working methods properly, our model will probably have to run for some time. Many full mooners currently say that little has changed for them, as they usually still work a lot. But the fact that the model and our way of working are more open and flexible gives them the feeling that they can organise their work more freely. We have found that making working hours more flexible can only be an intermediate step in changing forms of work. It is more important that people organise and shape their work primarily from within themselves. At the same time, sufficient support is needed from managers and supervisors. Time is increasingly receding as the dominant feature for measuring performance. We are therefore devoting ourselves to a completely new form of target systems, which we will be discussing shortly.

YOU WANT MORE INFORMATION? THEN READ ON.

The different models of flexible working:

There is part-time work as a classic reduction in working hours. There is job sharing, where several people share a workplace. There is flexitime, in which employees freely determine the beginning and end of their working time around the core working time. And there is trusted working time. Here, employees work freely according to their tasks. This model is aimed primarily at results and no longer at presence. The difficult thing about it, however, is that the employee is little to hardly tangible and controllable. In addition to working time, the place of work is also becoming more variable. We can flexibly decide to work from the office, from home or from a café.

Having the possibility of freely organising one's work in time and place in order to keep appointments, to reconcile family and work or private and leisure time is an ideal starting point for Work 4.0.

The change from an industrial to a knowledge-based society requires rethinking:

Due to demographic change, with more older people leaving companies than young employees joining them, there is an acute shortage of skilled workers. At the same time, the previous process in which companies selected their employees is changing. This is because the so-called Generation Y - all those born between 1980 and 2000 - now make the decision and choose their employer. As an extremely performance-oriented and high-performing generation, this generation has very specific ideas about the world of work. For this generation, which has grown up in times of digital change and with changed structures, companies have to rethink. This rethinking involves gaining an advantage in the marketplace and over the competition through a better working climate, a more productive working environment and easier work/life balance.

Benefits for both sides - employees and employers:

Part-time work or job sharing can be used to retain employees who, for example, are unable to continue working in a full-time job due to parental leave, further training or a part-time course of study. In addition, companies have greater leeway in the deployment of personnel and can thus compensate for temporary economic or personnel fluctuations. The employer becomes more flexible, as does the employee. If employees are freer to choose their working hours, they can adapt to their own rhythm: Early risers can arrive earlier when there is little going on and work through their to-do's more productively. The same applies to employees who arrive at work later, as they only become really productive at an advanced hour. An employee can also work from home on day X, as he can concentrate on a To Do much better here than in an open-plan office.

The threshold between theory and practice:

For companies it is an enormous changeover and a huge effort to suddenly throw all old structures overboard. A huge wave of change rolls towards all those involved. Suddenly an employee is working more frequently in the home office or is on the road more often and works from there. For the supervisor it is still strange if his team is more absent and he can therefore control tasks and performance less. And employees also ask themselves: Is my colleague really working or is he having a relaxed day at home? Confidence in performance is necessary at this point; controlling working time, on the other hand, is out of place. On top of that, structures are becoming increasingly blurred. Employees can basically be reached everywhere. There is a danger that overtime and overtime will become excessive - whether it is wanted by the employer or made unknowingly by the employee without prior agreement. Increased working from home can also lead to increasing isolation - can, but need not. The HOW is crucial. A Studie von Microsoft und Gallup aus dem Jahr 2012 laid down rules to ensure a smooth process: The use of flexible work should be free to everyone, because nobody should feel forced to do so. The employer should have no choice but to trust his employees and judge them on the basis of performance rather than presence. Nevertheless, they are advised not to neglect leadership, to take seriously their duty of care towards them and to strengthen the sense of community. Proper communication is essential in this respect.

One question remains:

Is a permanent job even necessary in 2017 - almost 2018? After all, due to digitalisation, almost everything can now be done from somewhere. In 2016, 61% of all German companies enabled employees to work on the move, 

by providing mobile Internet access, for example via smartphone or tablet. In 80% of these companies, employees had access to the internal e-mail system. However, only 44% still had the possibility to work on internal documents. And 36% were able to access and work with the company's internal software from a flexible location. The proportion of these companies increases with size. In relation to 2014, the number increased by 10%.

In the course of change, companies are getting creative and trying things out! This is how Siemens AG offers its employees „Mobile Working“. Employees who are no longer able to get an office space must or may move to a home office or café. According to Christian Scholz, an economist at Saarland University, the withdrawal of a permanent desk space completely ignores the wishes of the employees. Employers always have Generation Y in mind when making adjustments. The next generation, Generation Z with all those born after 1995, is completely different. It needs certain structures and order. Generation Z regards its workplace as a second home where it wants to feel at home. The desk is therefore their own territory. If this generation is robbed of this space, a feeling of rejection, unease and resistance arises.

Do you have any questions on this topic? Then simply write an e-mail to Alexandra Donath: alexandra(at)fullmoon.de

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