Flexible working is about providing people with the tools to do their jobs in smarter ways, along with the technologies to be more flexible about how and where they work and the skills to react to changing customer needs. If you can make this happen then you too can reap the rich rewards flexible working can bring.
We know this because here at Vodafone, we’ve done it ourselves. Through our own experiences we have learnt valuable lessons about what it takes to make flexible working a success and are able to help our customers change the way they work too.
We are committed to finding smarter and more effective ways of working and we want to help even more businesses do the same.
That’s why we’ve created the Guide to Flexible Working – a practical resource for making flexible working a reality for your business.
[eBook] How to build a successful flexible working strategy
Foreword: More flexible
more productive more profitable
Where do I start?
Best tools for the job
Thoughts and tips
for successful implementation
Flexible working checklist
The sections of the guide have been personalised to different job roles.
Click on the section that is relevant to you based on this legend:
Business Decision Maker Chief Information Officer Human Resources
Increased profits. Happier, more productive employees. A reputation that ensures people know about your
business for the right reasons.
There’s little doubt that flexible working pays some very handsome dividends to businesses that embrace it.
A 2015 global study by Vodafone found that some 75 per cent of businesses worldwide now have a flexible
working policy. Eight out of ten of those have seen significant improvements in productivity and more than
half have benefitted from increased profitability and believe they have seen a positive shift in reputation.
Power to your people
Flexible working means providing your employees with tools to do
right mix of technologies they will need to become more flexible
about how and where they work - and equipping them with the
skills to react to changing customer behaviours.
that flexible working can bring.
Your people will be more motivated and work more effectively.
An additional bonus could be reduced overheads.
What’s more, you’ll be able to offer improved levels of service
to your customers thanks to your better connected and more
collaborative team of employees.
We know this because here at Vodafone, we’ve done it ourselves.
We wanted to shift away from a rigid, desk-based working culture
and free up our employees to take advantage of all that mobile
So we adopted a flexible working model in our headquarters
in the UK, as well as in several other countries, including the
Netherlands, Italy, Germany and New Zealand.
Transforming the mind-set, culture and management style of
a complex organisation wasn’t always easy, particularly when
it meant understanding the cultural challenges of different
markets, but the experience has taught us just how important
these changes were to our business.
Of the businesses that have already adopted flexible working:
a positive shift
in their company’s
Vodafone Flexible: friend or foe? 2015 survey
Open for business
away with executive offices and permanent personal desks. We
built a leadership culture that walks-the-talk. Most days you will
find me working from an open plan desk unless I need an office
to host a meeting. We created open, collaborative environments
for employees to come and go as needed and we created spaces
that cater to the different types of activities our people do –
whether they need a place for deep concentration, teamwork,
project work or social get-togethers to celebrate success and
providing employees with the tools to work beyond traditional
office-based models and measuring people on output and results
achieved, as opposed to time spent at their desks. And we are
continuing to roll out similar schemes to other Vodafone offices
around the world.
Our experiences mean we have learnt valuable lessons about
what it takes to make flexible working a success and are able to
help our customers change the way they work too.
We are committed to finding smarter and more effective ways of
working and we want to help even more businesses do the same.
That’s why we’ve created the Guide to Flexible Working. Please
your business, no matter how big or small, complex or specialised
This guide will help you get the best out of your people and the
technology they rely on, with useful tips from Vodafone and real
life insight from a few of our customers who have already used
flexible working to improve their business.
Whether your business is ready to explore flexible working for the
first time, or you want to build on what you are already doing, we
hope you find the guide valuable.
CEO, Vodafone Group Enterprise
We will see that the technology is in place to
help people, individuals, communities really
inform new ways of getting things done
Dyan Finkhousen, Director of Open Innovation &
Advanced Manufacturing, GE speaking at the launch of
Vodafone’s Customer Experience Centre in New York
76% of businesses with
flexible working in place have
seen improvements in staff
70% of 18-24 year olds
believe their quantity of work
would improve if whey were
able to work flexibly
65% of businesses
with flexible working trust
their employees more
Start by deciding on your flexible working goals. You might want to make your workforce more responsive, create a
better work life balance for your employees, reduce overhead costs or respond to changing customer demands.
Ask yourself, where are you now and where would you like to get to? Do you have a clear
understanding of your priorities? Can you anticipate possible road blocks along the way?
And do any existing working practices need to change to help your business do better and
keep delivering to your customers?
Before any wheels are put into motion you’ll need to understand what flexible working
really means to your organisation and how it fits with your overall business strategy. Larger
companies especially will need answers at the ready to build a case strong enough to
secure buy-in across their wider business.
And companies of all sizes should consider how success will be measured when flexible
working is rolled out. Establishing suitable metrics early on will help to shape your plan
and demonstrate return on investment further down the line.
Once objectives are agreed and targets are set it’s time to audit the business and assess how ready it is for flexible
The conversation might still be high level at this stage, but make sure you keep your managers and wider workforce
will turn ideas into practice. The more you communicate, canvass and consult, the more receptive your employees
will be and ultimately the more likely you are to make a successful change.
Flexible working isn’t one-size-fits-all. For example, to a public
sector body looking for ways to maximise efficiency and deliver
more within constrained budgets, it could be the means to
improve services, whilst at the same time bringing down costs
and carbon emissions. For the small business owner, it might be
a way to attract and motivate employees with the promise of a
better work / life balance.
We see flexible working as a way of enabling people to work in
ways that help them to meet the changing needs of customers,
collaborate better across teams and find cleverer and more cost
effective uses for office space.
But what’s right for a global telecommunications company like
us, might not be right for say, a fleet management firm, or an
electrical wholesale business. So, before you build your flexible
working strategy, be clear on what flexibility means to your
business and how it fits with your goals
Think about your various types of workers too,
the job that they do and their working style. Your
field workers or contact centre staff will almost
certainly need a different approach to your office
Change is never easy, especially when
there are many moving parts. But there are
four key areas you need to address to build
a successful flexible working strategy.
Understanding your work styles and role requirements Changing bricks, bytes and behaviours
Framework for managing change
kind of change needs to start from the top. Your flexible working
to get behind it and lead by example. For larger businesses, that
could mean the CEO, together with heads of business units such
as the IT lead and Human Resource and Finance directors. In a
smaller organisation, it may mean appointing a member of the
team to drive the project alongside the company directors, or in
some cases simply involving everyone from the outset.
To get things moving in the
right direction, you can set
up working groups to bring
together ambassadors from
across the business. These
representatives are your eyes
and ears and they should
include a cross-section of
remotely, from fixed locations,
or in the field.
Let them tell you which applications they need access to and to
suggest the technologies they prefer to communicate with. In
larger organisations, this can be supported with a combination
of team workshops, web surveys, in depth interviews and by
tracking and analysing people’s daily activities over a period of
Changing management and leadership style is another
complicated but, nevertheless, critical step. Managers and
colleagues alike can find themselves monitoring and judging
when people arrive for work, how long they take for lunch, or
how often they work from home. As working styles change,
measurement tends to be based more on output than on the
number of hours an employee is at their desk. If you want to
encourage new behaviours, and help your teams to trust people
to deliver on their commitments, then you need to put the right
performance measures in place. For managers and business
leaders, this includes clearly communicating what needs to be
delivered across the team, and measuring staff on their success
in meeting their goals, rather than on how long they have been
in the office.
There’s a good chance that once you have moved to a flexible
working model you may still find resistance from your team.
Employees could be concerned that working in this way might
be unproductive. Others may be unwilling to accept the idea of
losing a fixed desk space. It takes time for people to adjust, so
this needs to be factored in.
To enable new ways of working you need to understand how
and why people work the way they do. Do they travel into the
office every day because they need approval on documents,
access to systems and information, or to be present in face-to-
face meetings? How many existing processes could be updated
and improved if you changed the way you thought about
Providepeoplewith clearguidance onworkingprinciples.You’ll
also need to tell people about best practices for managing their
data, using devices securely, and give them health and safety
guidance for working remotely. Make sure you factor in any
potential risks that come with working environments outside
of the office, such as those posed by using work equipment at
home. Communicate openly and honestly with people about
how to use their technology and access information securely,
and ensure robust security measures are also in place if people
If your employees are currently expected
to work from nine to five, then you’ll need
to decide on whether their contracts will
need to be updated to reflect the hours when
they should be available by phone and email.
Changing working practices may also have
implications for your business’s legal responsibilities. Make sure
you are clear on the steps that need to be taken and familiarise
yourself with any local legislation that needs to be followed. In
the UK, for instance, the right to request flexible working was
extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ qualifying service in
Changing how you think about space is an important part of
encouraging people to work in more agile and flexible ways.
It’s also a smart way to save costs. Providing allocated desks for
every member of a workforce that no longer needs to work from
a static location every day is unnecessarily expensive. Having
large meeting rooms that are only ever used by small groups is
wasteful, as is printing out documents when they can be shared
By understanding work styles and giving
be able to better understand the implications
for your space. At its simplest, this will tell you
how many allocated desks you need, but it will
also provide a clearer vision for the way the
office is designed; from allowing for space for
collaborative team working, to intentionally
moving away from printing and using paper.
these changes. Cost-savings can be made from smarter use of
space – and a more productive workforce will pay dividends in
the long-run – but completely redesigning your office space
will still take a sizeable upfront investment.
This is the foundation of flexible working. You need the right mix
of infrastructure, applications, and communications tools to
as outside spaces; providing conference facilities so that team
members can join voice or videoconferences from any location;
unified communications and cloud-enabled collaboration
tools to keep employees connected while supporting a wider
range of working styles; 4G to supply people with faster internet
access on their mobile devices when working on the move; and
a virtual private network to give people the freedom to access
the corporate network and open work files securely without
needing to be in your office.
Gain an understanding of which applications people need to do
their jobs. Then get to grips with how urgently and frequently
they need them and which mobile technologies will improve
productivity and performance.
Of course, your technology
considerations will ultimately be
determined by the budget you have
available. Your business may provide
your employees with the devices they
need to work remotely. If employees use
supported and made secure?
Will you offer to help to pay for home-office facilities such as
broadband connections or mobile bills? And will you provide
employees with access to a helpdesk to offer remote IT
support when they need it?
Once you are clear on the
current and future needs
of your people, processes,
space and technology, you
will have a better idea of the
changes required to make
your business more flexible.
CHOOSING THE BEST
TOOLS FOR THE JOB
Once you’ve made the decision to introduce or expand flexible working in your business, you need to take a
detailed look at the technology your people will need to make it work. What do they need to keep close to
customers and colleagues? What encourages them to collaborate and share ideas? What will help them to
be productive, stay responsive and ultimately deliver great work?
We asked ourselves the same questions when we set out to become a flexible business. We realised that
some employees prefer to talk on the phone; others use online chat or video applications. Just about
everyone needs to be able to send and receive emails, find files and connect to the company system in and
outside of the office. And some teams need remote access to more sensitive applications such as human
resources or financial management systems.
Every business wants to see maximum return on their technology investments, so let these be driven by the
people who know best what technology they need to get the job done well.
Put people in the same office together every day and you have a
level of certainty that calls will reach them, teams will bond, ideas
will bounce, and information will flow. To enable teams to work in
more flexible ways, you need the same level of confidence that no
call will go unanswered and people will stay in close touch whether
they are working from home, out in the field, at customer sites, in
airport lounges, or anywhere else.
working technology. 4G in particular – the ‘fourth generation’ of
mobile communication – makes access to the internet faster on
devices with mobile connectivity from smartphones and tablets to
dongles and laptops.
With a reliable 4G connection
managers can be reached
to review long and complex
documents in need of urgent
sign-off without returning to an
office, and executives can stay at
the top of their game, accessing
and editing large files on their
connected mobile devices all
the way from the taxi to the
Unified communications also make it easier for people to stay in
touch while working on the move. Converging fixed and mobile
lines and linking video, voice conferencing, instant messaging and
email through the same application gives small businesses a way
to redirect landline calls to a person’s mobile or to a designated
a way for employees to reach customers and colleagues using the
channels, such as video calls or IM, that are the best fit for them.
You can choose to provide employees with devices, such as
devices. Either way you need to be mindful of the necessary
security measures to protect corporate data from malware, viruses
and phishing attacks.
If employees are going to connect to your servers and access
potentially sensitive information outside of the office then a
virtual private network (VPN) gives people a secure connection
to your company system even if they are accessing it over the
internet at home or through a Wi-Fi hotspot in a public place.
IT departments can also remotely manage devices running
on most operating systems. Software can be installed on
smartphones and laptops that can help you as a business to keep
a track of the applications that are running on the device.
If the device is lost or stolen, the employee or IT team can lock or
wipe the device remotely, stopping company information from
getting into the wrong hands.
Any business can become vulnerable to viruses and malicious
attacks, but for IT teams with thousands of employees to support,
mobile threat management tools will scan all traffic to and
from a mobile device to block inappropriate content and protect
both the data and the device. Managed mobility services also
ease the pressure of delivering mobility at scale, taking care of
everything from the policies, processes and security, through to
the day-to-day management and deployments.
Regardless of whether people are in the office or on the road,
you want everyone to have easy access to the information they
need. By moving servers, files and applications into the cloud
and replacing old and restrictive IT systems with a virtualised
environment you can give employees exactly that.
Office 365, for instance, gives people
cloud-based access to the everyday
programmes, such as Excel or PowerPoint,
they would otherwise need to be on a
Apps, help people to share calendars,
join video meetings and store and share
documents they can work on together.
More and more things are becoming
connected to the internet and whether
you call it Machine-to-Machine (M2M)
technology or the Internet of things (IoT)
it’s giving businesses pause for thought
over how this can help the company and
its employees work in smarter and more
A smart building system, for example, can help a business adjust
its energy consumption hour by hour based on the number of
people using an office. Employees can come and go as needed
and the company has a smart way to save costs.
a way of seeing whether there is a fault and if so, which part needs
replacing. Someone can swiftly be sent to fix the issue without
any time wasted on routine maintenance check-ups, improving
the level and efficiency of service the engineer can deliver.
It’s worth considering whether emerging technologies, such as
M2M, could be the secret ingredient to smarter working and a
more competitive edge.
for your business.
THOUGHTS AND TIPS
We asked some of the customers
we’ve helped and a handful of our
own experts ‘what advice would
you give to other businesses about
The technology is in place, the task for us is to get the
corporate culture to match. We need to trust our teams
to go out and get the content, or sell the advertising. We
need to stop making excuses for them to be in the office.
Peter Quinn, Service Delivery Manager for Telecom &
Networks, Trinity Mirror
When our sales guys meet a client they need to be fully
up to speed – on the project, the product, the industry
context. They need to be able start meaningful, informed
conversations from the go.
Global Director, EMC
WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS
ABOUT FLEXIBLE WORKING
Mobility will create new ways of working and new
possibilities for the business. To help plan our mobile
strategy we need to better understand how employees
experience mobile technology.
Matt Sevenoaks, Global Head of Crowdsourcing,
Senior managers need reassurance flexible working is a
sound business move: what are the benefits and where
are the financial gains? What are the risks and how can
these be mitigated?
Jan Geldmacher, CEO, Vodafone Global Enterprise
Flexible working is about more than the hours people
work. Try to look at a more holistic approach that
recognises everybody has very different needs from the
world of work now – it is difficult to have a one-size-fits-
Jennifer Hayes, Head of Talent and Development,
Outline a clear direction and targets at the
outset about what the business wants to
achieve. Any u-turns or changes will create a
lot of rework and potentially waste money.
Jeni Mundy, Product Management Director,
Vodafone Group Enterprise
Flexible working relies on a ‘psychological contract’: the
perceived relationship between employees and employer and
the expectations they have of one another. Trust that work
is being done, openness to change and the organisation’s
commitment to adopting more flexible working arrangements:
these are essential tools for creating a positive psychological
David Langhorn, Head of Corporate and Large Enterprise,
WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED ABOUT FLEXIBLE
We hope you have found the guide useful.
This final section provides you with a
useful checklist for addressing all of the
elements to make flexible work a success
for your business.
FLEXIBLE WORKING CHECKLIST
PLAN DEPLOY MANAGE
STEP TWO STEP THREE
Gain buy-in from the key people and appoint early adoption team to lead by example
Identify business managers to put the wheels in motion
Observe and listen to the needs of employees
Regular communication to keep your people engaged
Know what the business
wants to achieve
Evaluate your employee
working styles and needs
Build the business case
Be clear on the change
management implications –
how will the culture, policies
and processes need to adapt
Secure funding and key
Detailed planning of working
practices and policies
Full scope of technologies and
changes to work environment
to be developed and deployed
Communication of changes
to culture, policy and process
Provide training and
support for results-based
management, data security,
health and safety
Ongoing management of IT
infrastructure and mobile
Ongoing training and access
to IT support
Metrics in place to measure
Regular employee feedback
to learn and optimise against
Get started with flexible working