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Working in a flexible, hybrid, or remote environment has its perks, think back to our last blog on boosting remote work connections where we talked about the benefits of having no commutes, greater flexibility to fit work around your life among many, many more perks. However, working remotely requires a new intentional focus on communication that should not be left to chance.
One specific area we are focusing on today is managing communication around availability and accountability in a flexible environment. If you're grappling with understanding when your team is available or how to contact them while respecting their flexibility, this week's twork is tailor-made just for you.
This weeks twork- intentional transparent communication on availability
That may sound like a lofty twork. But really, it just means being super clear on who’s available and when in a way that aligns with the business needs.
Working when - our channel to create clear expectations on our availability
In our quest for better communication, here at A Better Work, we've developed a simple yet super effective tool to address these questions—a Slack channel named "Working When."
Core Working Hours: Keep It Simple
The beauty of this tool lies in its simplicity. On the "Working When" channel, each team member posts their core working hours, these are then pinned in the channel, so they can be easily seen and accessed when needed. These aren't the total hours they put in, but the key hours when they can be contacted freely. It eliminates the guessing game of whether someone is working or not.
For instance, if my core hours are 10 am to 4 pm it doesn't mean that I only work these hours, but when I am mostly available. Another team member might have different core hours, but during these periods of overlap, we know we can reach out without hesitation.
Flexibility Beyond Core Hours
In a flexible environment, particularly for those working remotely, core hours will generally form just a portion of total hours. Outside those core agreed and communicated hours, people will design their work schedule to manage their family, lifestyle and work commitments. Whether it's someone starting early in the morning, jumping on late at night, taking breaks during the day or simply when a storm knocks out someone's internet, in a highly functioning flex environment outcomes and clear expectations are key. If you’re delivering your work, it should make little difference if you prefer to work through the night or if your best time is at 5 am.
The added benefit of differing hours is that it hard bakes ‘focused work’ time into everyone’s schedule. It means you’re less likely to be called into meetings you’re not needed in. You’re likely to prioritise more effectively so you get time to do the actual work.
The key is acknowledging core hours for easy communication while respecting individual work preferences. This removes the guesswork of trying to figure out when someone is online and sets expectations for when people may be responsive to certain requests.
Team Core Hours: Finding Common Ground
While individual core hours are important, as a team, having common core hours is crucial. This ensures a time when everyone is available for collaboration. Flexibility needs to work for the business, team and individual. Without core team hours it can feel like working across time zones.
In our team, core team hours are roughly 9 am to 2 pm Monday to Thursday. This shared time allows for effective team communication and collaboration and ensures the work that needs to be done collaboratively is done when it needs to be!
Outside these hours we’ll still jump on calls and work collaboratively but it’s by agreement. When it’s more difficult to get everyone’s agreement to jump into a meeting, we are more selective in ensuring the right people are in the room rather than everyone we can think of for fear of leaving someone out.
More Than Just a Channel
The success of this approach lies in transparent communication. We don't need to know every detail of each team member's schedule, but if it impacts the team, it needs to be communicated.
If someone has to step away for personal reasons, it's respected without prying into the specifics. We sometimes feel the need to justify time away from our desks e.g. “just stepping away for a doctor appointment”. We’re grown-ups and mutually accountable. Frankly, it’s none of our business if you’re going to the doctor or need to pick up a sick kid. What’s important is if your colleagues or work is impacted.
If you want to let the team know or seek a little moral support then feel free to add a little more context and queue the empathy onslaught.
When trust is built within the team, we can simply say “ I’ll be away from my desk from 1-3” (or whenever it may be).
Communication is always two-way. Use channels like "Working When" to share updates, commitments, or unexpected changes but ideally, it’s not a broadcast channel. Thumbs up or emojis can serve as acknowledgement and even support creating two-way communication.
Give this week's twork a try!
As you begin creating your communication strategy around flexibility, start by clarifying everyone's core hours. Discuss it as a team to ensure alignment with the overall workflow. This simple step sets the foundation for effective communication and collaboration. As you implement this tweak for the week, remember that the goal is not rigid policies but transparent communication. We're all adults who understand the balance between work and personal life and how to get work done!
For more on flexible and hybrid work, we’ve created a workbook jam-packed with practical tools to plan, implement and track hybrid working that will work for your business. Find out more and order your copy here.
At A Better Work we work with our clients to make work better and more fulfilling. It's not about happiness, it's about feeling a sense of accomplishment, and building teams that work brilliantly together in good times and bad.
The best bit is all of this is good for your business - for your bottom line, for retention and for customer satisfaction. If you think we can help, reach out for a chat.
Let’s make work better together.
A Better Work
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