I was lucky enough to be able to attend a one day course hosted by Hub Events and facilitated by Larry Reynolds on the 24th May, which was titled “The Manager’s Guide to Flexible Working”. As a business SK Chase is really focused on creating a healthy work/life balance, and I went along hoping to learn from other businesses learning’s and experiences with regards to flexible and home working.

This was the first time I had been to an HR related seminar on my own, so I was feeling slightly anxious as to what the people would be like and what I would take away from this. I arrived at the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow at 9am sharp, ready for our 9.30am start and having walked in to the meeting room I realised that there were more attendees than I thought there would be, about 20 in total. We sat down and got ready for the session to begin. I had read feedback on Larry’s sessions and his method seemed much aligned with that of our Shirlaws business coach, Fergus King, whereby he was there to facilitate the session and help with group work, rather than standing at the front of the room lecturing us all on managing flexible working.

There were lots of different people at the seminar, representing lots of different businesses/organisations, ranging from small IT companies who were already working flexibly to council representatives who had been tasked with creating and managing flexible working with their council. One thing which I noticed early on in the session, and which gave me an overwhelming sense of pride is that SK Chase has made a conscious decision to help our staff create a better work/life balance, and in many ways we are ahead of the game, with almost all of our staff either doing flexible hours, working from home or a mixture of both.

Some organisations had come up against resistance from Manager’s when flexible/home work had been requested, or they had encountered fear as to how they would be able to trust people working from home. Being able to share SK Chase’s experiences felt very rewarding, as a business but also for me as a representative of the business. It made me realise that as an organisation we have already accepted the benefits that flexible/home working will bring to our business, and that happy staff are more effective and productive for the benefit of SK Chase.

With all of the above said, that is not to say that I sat the whole day thinking that there was no point being there. I did take away several key learning’s from the seminar, one of which is that as a business we need a more structured way of creating flexible/home working procedures. In the past the request has always been raised by a staff member and has been done on an ad hoc individual basis, however moving forward, as part of our ongoing HR project I will be looking at ways in which we can create a more structured process, so that as SK Chase grows, existing and new staff know where they stand when it comes to requesting and implementing flexible/home working.

As an organisation within which most of our staff work from home at least one day a week, we fully trust that our staff will manage their workload effectively and manage team members expectations as to when they can be reached and how best to communicate with them when they are not in the office. At the seminar we were given the top ten tips for building trust within a virtual team, and having just recruited two new team members who will be based down in London with our Sales Manager Daniela, these brought about some new ways in which we can ensure that we all actively communicate with each other, as well as reinforcing that we are already ensuring that we maintain the trust which has already been created with the team.

The top ten tips are:

1. Clarify expectations- have a face to face kickoff event if possible.
2. Be available- clarify how people can get hold of you and other team members.
3. Get to know each other- make social calls, have a fun fact sheet for each team member.
4. Let people know what is happening when they are not around.
5. Stimulate peer to peer and buddy relationships.
6. Give open and honest feedback.
7. Do frequent short calls, check ins and virtual huddles.
8. Encourage debate and disagreement.
9. Be utterly reliable and hold others to a similarly high standard.
10. Create time and space to share the learning.

I felt really energised after the seminar and after sharing my learning’s with the team, Kaye & Heather shared that it would be a good idea to write a blog about the session and what I took away from it.

I now have a feeling that the only way is up for SK Chase and I am looking forward to creating new procedures within the business to make sure that our working from home policy is documented.

And, on a side note, my fears and anxiety about attending the seminar were of course completely unfounded, and towards the end of the day I even found myself up presenting in front of the rest of the group, something that I never imagined myself doing at all.

Every day is a learning and every learning is a gift to be cherished.