Q&A: How to manage a flexible working team by IT Manager, Simmons & Simmons

There is a lot of best practice experience to share when it comes to good management. But what about the new challenges of managing a flexible working team? We ask, Rob Morgan, Infrastructure Operations Manager from Simmons & Simmons about his approach to managing a successful IT team of 25 who work flexibly.

What does working flexibly mean to you?

I work one day a week from home. I aim to be in the office midweek and I typically have my home working day on a Monday or a Friday depending on business needs. I also come in early (around 7.45am) and leave at 4.30pm, as I prefer to work these times due to a long commute.

How does your team work flexibly?

I manage three teams across a business that works globally 24/7, 365 days a year, so it is important for us to allow staff to work flexibly. If you are flexible with them they will be flexible with you on the odd occasion when you need them to start work at 3am!  It is important to have a give and take relationship.  I have worked flexibly for many years in previous roles so I am very comfortable with the concept. I enjoy working this way and so do my team.  However, some of my team works the traditional 9-5pm which is fine too.

How do you manage a flexible working team?

Gone are the days when managers would be happy with employees just turning up. Presenteeism is not an option anymore. It is a culture change but one I welcome.  You have to be able to manage performance and outcomes so I don’t mind if my team want to start their working day at mid-morning as long as they fulfill their objectives, contractual requirements, attend team meetings and have face-to-face time as appropriate.  It is still important to gel as a team and work together.

I hold weekly meetings with the team and individuals. At the one-to-ones we will agree objectives and they know how they are going to be measured, for example, project or service deliverables. Measuring outcomes is not an easy mindset, there is a big difference between thinking someone is working because they are physically present, and knowing an objective has been met.

What advice would you give other managers on how to manage a flexible working team?

Be an effective manager.  It is about creating an environment where everyone can deliver, developing a core set of values that is recognised by the team and giving them ownership on how they do their jobs to the best of their ability.  Yes, this may take more active management particularly at the beginning but it will be rewarded by loyalty, hard work and a good job when employees are treated like adults.

Be a role model and talk about commitments outside of work to give credence to those activities and responsibilities. People now know I generally come in early and leave around 4.30pm. I guess I did have had a few raised eyebrows to start with when leaving at 4.30pm, particularly when someone wanted to organise a meeting at 6pm and I had to ask for it to be rescheduled. But I am also respectful not to ask for meetings at 7.45am just because it suits me. I hope my team would say I was respectful of their ways of working too. Of course when the business demands it, we are all hands on deck.

Reward output and consider how to measure outputs of both the individual and as a team. You need to have good conversations with your team and make it very clear what is expected.

What has been the main challenge to managing a flexible working team?

Communication within the team – as many of us work non-standard hours, there can be little cross-over in terms of physically being in the office at the same time so arranging meetings that everyone needs to attend can be difficult. But our IT systems mean that this hurdle can be overcome most of the time.

What is Simmons & Simmons flexible working policy?

Most of our employees, including all of our associates, are able to work from home one day a week with no formal arrangements in place and all our job adverts contain a statement advertising  our openness to flexibility.  The firm does this to raise staff morale, leading to improved retention of people and more loyalty.  We want to empower our employees so they can manage their work and home life responsibilities rather than being too prescriptive over their working hours.

Did you discuss working flexibly during your recruitment?

Yes, Simmons & Simmons was very open throughout the hiring stage. It is very important to me to work flexibly for a number of reasons including reducing travel time and it is something I have been used to in my other employment. Some industries are more open to flexible working than others and the legal sector may be behind the curve. But that wasn’t the case at Simmons.  My interviewers were very open to me working flexibly and we discussed it at interview.

Huge thanks to Rob for sharing his thoughts and advice on managing teams flexibly. If you would be interested in taking part in a Q&A to share your story on flexibility in the workplace, we would love to hear from you. Contact us at Sarah.Broad@AttuneJobs.com

Agile, Flexible working, simmons & simmons

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