Flexible working and leadership: where is everyone?!

by Simon Stanford: Head of Private Sector Sales, Telefónica UK

It’s another busy day in the office and I need to speak to one of my sales managers. So, I look up from my desk, check here, there and everywhere knowing I’d seen him just this morning. Turns out he has gone to London for a meeting but it’s not a problem, I’ll just drop him a text knowing he’ll get back to me. And that sums up the office culture of 2015.

In the flexible working world, underpinned by a range of mobile technology, the water cooler conversation is a thing of the past. Dropping by a desk is easier said than done. Face to face meetings are a rarity and tea breaks are normally spent alone. By why is this? Has the culture really changed that much in the past ten years? And what does this mean for collaboration? And team leadership? And the people we work with?

Now I realise this sounds very ‘doom and gloom’, but I believe the benefits of flexible working greatly outweigh the lack of face to face time. Employees are able to manage their workload with more autonomy and protect their work-life balance. They save themselves time and money by minimising the need to commute.  And they even work together more effectively using digital tools like OneDrive and Skype (which I also believe helps boost productivity). In our personal lives we are so used to communicating and connecting digitally, that I’m convinced we don’t lose out by working in this way too.

As for leadership, it just involves a bit of initial effort to understand how, when and where individuals within your team work most effectively. Once you have this, you will know the ideal time and method to get in touch with people to get the best results out of them. Home workers made up 13.9% of all those in work in the UK during the first quarter of 2014[1] and I expect this number to rise over the next 5 years. Subsequently, I don’t believe businesses can ignore this trend, or force their employees to come into the office every day. As working flexibly becomes the norm, organisations need to be accommodating to attract and retain the best talent.

Lastly, in a sales environment, you cannot overlook the behaviour and preferences of the customer either. O2 has relationships with a range of organisations, across the private and public sector, which work in a variety of different ways. If they expect face to face meetings, you need to be there. If they want a video conference, you need to make it happen. And by growing and protecting the flexible working culture at O2, my team and the wider business are able to work in a way that not only benefits them, but the customer too. And if you still missing getting together, I’m sure there’s a pub to be found somewhere…

Flexible working – love it or hate it? Tweet me @simonlstanford to share your view.

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/jun/04/proportion-of-employed-working-from-home-reaches-record-high