Courtesy of Cindy Bates – Vice President, Microsoft U.S. SMB group
An essential characteristic of a modern business is your capacity to do business anywhere. Technology enables an organization to cultivate a cohesive, collaborative approach while providing flexibility in when, where and how your team gets work done. According to Staff.com, one in four workers work from home at least some of the time and telework has grown 73 percent in the last six years.
We approached CEO and founder of FlexJobs, Sara Sutton Fell, for her perspective on the future of work and how small businesses can embrace a flexible work style. Sara is also the founder of the 1 Million for Work Flexibility initiative, is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, and was named a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.
Technology is impacting small businesses in unprecedented ways. From email and video conference calls, to doing business across time zones in a matter of seconds, technology has completely reshaped the way business is done. And in my experience as the founder and CEO of a startup turned small business, I believe it has opened up so many possibilities for how, when, and where we work, as well.
When I founded FlexJobs in 2007, I had a vision in mind — I wanted to create a top notch service that would help people find flexible jobs that support work-life balance. This goal was personal for me, as I had just given birth to my first son. It was the anticipation of my upcoming motherhood that led me on my own (frustrating) search for job opportunities that were both professional and flexible. The frustration I experienced inspired me to start FlexJobs.
In starting my new company, I realized that I wanted to “walk the walk” of work flexibility, not just “talk the talk.” For me this meant creating a work culture that was based in telecommuting and flexible schedules, ideally leading to a healthy work-life balance for our team members. This was somewhat of an experiment, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome — not only for myself as a working mom and CEO, but also for the amazing, productive, happy, and successful company it has allowed us to build. Here are a few of my most valued tips for how other small businesses can utilize flexible work options for their own success.
Use flexible work options to optimize productivity.
With tuned-in and healthy management techniques, flexible work options have been shown in repeated studies to boost workers’ productivity levels. Without the stress of work-life conflict, workers can better focus on doing their jobs well. Flexible hours help people better manage their personal obligations without needing to take time off. And working from home helps people avoid in-office distractions, save time otherwise spent commuting, and focus on their jobs better. The great news for small businesses is that flexible work isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition–you can craft a flexible work program that works for your company.
Keep your costs low.
Another important factor for a small business is the cost of operating. With flexible work options, you’re able to lower your costs while increasing your productivity. At my company, for example, because we all work from home, we have no central office, and therefore no real estate costs. As a business just getting off the ground seven years ago, this was a huge asset. Similarly, flexible work options can give you an edge in hiring the best candidate for the job regardless of location (if the job is 100% telecommuting), or tapping into other candidate pools, such as the highly-educated, under-utilized candidate pool of women who left the workforce to take care of their families (if the job is part-time, flexible, or alternative schedule).
Focus on the most important things.
One of the main reasons that flexible work options are good for small business is that they shift your mindset to focus on the things that really matter. Small business owners know better than anyone the value of time. In the 20th century, managers focused on face-time–a person’s ability to be in the office–rather than on the quality or output of their efforts. Today, however, technology makes it much easier to focus on what really matters. So, what matters to your business? What are your goals? And how can flexible work support them?
Allowing your team to work from home or have flexible schedules is especially suited for roles like sales and business development, administrative roles, web development, customer support, and operations–the core parts of most businesses! Once you decide to utilize work flexibility, the next step is crafting a custom program that incorporates flexible work options that fit your company well, and help you meet your goals. Lay a solid foundation for yourself, and flexible work will help your small business grow and succeed.
Read more from Sara on The Huffington Post