Flexible Working: The Psychological Contract

Uncertainty is an uncomfortable feeling for many, and whilst the UK economy is set to avoid a double-dip recession, the 2.2% growth predicted by Ernst & Young will ultimately depend on whether there is enough business confidence to exploit investment and employment opportunities, particularly within the public sector. Those in our industry wishing to make their mark as trusted professionals will have an interesting year ahead of them as a result.

For the private sector, and especially within SMBs, profit margins will still remain low and vulnerable as government support is withdrawn. If you take anything from this blog post, be sure you carefully monitor your cash flow and counter-party risk to help your buoyancy during 2011. You may be wise to advise your clients to do likewise also.

As business owners, it’s these uncertainties that don’t just worry us but also affect our customers and clients. Unsurprisingly, technology hardly gets a sniff on the priority list unless it does at least one of two things; helps solves a problem, or helps make money. That’s not to say that it doesn’t play an important part in the day-to-day and overarching business strategy, but it’s important to recognise that those who just sell technology for technology’s sake are few and far between. From the weighty Sphere 1 to Panasonic’s 1.66kg Toughbook CF-F8, even the humble PC has wonderfully evolved not because of a whim, but because the market demanded more capable hardware and software to support their own evolution. More often than not, people nowadays care less about the manufacturer and more about the way in which they can help us communicate and work better.

Technology is a tool, an enabler, a means to greater efficiencies, and new opportunities.

It is this technology that has shifted the pivot from our desks to wherever we work at our best; whether it be on our laps in a coffee shop, on the train to a meeting, or even at the kitchen table when you get the time to concentrate.

We live in great times even if our economic climate is currently forcing us to tighten our belts. How we cope with our circumstances and adapt accordingly is key – business operations now demand greater efficiencies to be driven through every aspect of business, from procurement to maintenance, and developing technologies such as virtualisation, social media, and the cloud all contribute to easing us through these changes. The irony is, that despite the plethora of technology out there to help us with our broad and ever-changing range of needs, it is human nature that prevents us truly embracing what we acknowledge/preach/understand to be the next logical steps.

Whilst we advocate the advantages of the Martini way of working (any time, any place, anywhere), to help support others perform to their optimum, there are still far too many people who fear the loss of control were they to implement it properly themselves.

We all know of at least one other person (if not ourselves) that are not ‘morning people’, or those who somehow get the job done twice as fast as others and still with time to spare. But we still bundle everyone up into the same bag and habitually hold them to an outdated and less effective modes of work such as the 9am to 5pm framework despite the evolution of technology.

Whether everyone has a different definition of ‘work’ or the majority of employees have successfully mastered the art of ‘busy’ as opposed to being productive, the obstacle blocking long-term success of flexible working is trust. In response to flexible working, some bosses are asking ‘how can I trust them to work if I can’t see them’. What they should be asking themselves is whether they trust them to work if you can see them.

The fundamental problem with flexible working in whatever guise, is the mindset of the employer and that too of the employee. How both respective parties regard the business, their involvement in terms of their satisfaction with their current job role, or even their long-term career, all play a part in whether the psychological contract between the employed and their employers will support flexible working. That’s even before you start talking about technology (nobody said this job was easy!).

Loyal and impassioned employees will always do what it takes to get the job done regardless but it is equally important to remember ‘clock watchers’ may not necessarily be tardy or disinterested, but instead lack sufficient stimulation or structure to know how to care.

Employers initially looked upon Facebook with disdain before a few clever marketers showed them how it could enhance their online presence by harvesting information. IT administrators were able to discriminate natural user habits, negating any chance of mutual and long-term trust relationships whilst stifling exactly what it was they were trying to glean from their online marketing. Businesses were dangerously ignoring what was in front of them. Technology, both in the workplace and at home was helping to shape how people shared knowledge and information. If you have ever taken a ride on the London Underground and have looked at your fellow passengers, you’ll have seen commuters regularly switch between answering work emails, social media applications, or even a game.

There must be something in how they are regarded at work which allows them to naturally work that little bit extra in their own time…

It must be recognised that everyone has a different style of approaching their work. Those who have opted to set up their own businesses and work from home have all faced getting to grips with managing their own time. They only have to answer to themselves; no more 9am – 5pm for them, it may be 7am – 11am followed by 4pm through to 10pm depending on their situation, and we know that some of our readers have been working well into the wee hours plenty of times.

But why should this kind of flexible working be right for these guys and not others? Just because those who have taken the leap have undergone weeks, if not months, to discover how they work best, does not mean that those in full-time employment should necessarily be subjected to generic rigid structures.

It can be this inhibiting mindset that is often overlooked as a competitor to the Managed Service Provider (MSP). Any MSP choosing to label themselves as a Trusted Business Advisor should not limit to their knowledge to technology alone. The silent influence of the phychological relationships that play out even when the PC is powered down can operate at a higher vibration that staggeringly, so many overlook. The dynamics between the manager and the managed must be understood to ensure the technology supports their existing needs, but also provides an infrastructure that will generate a greater and better utilisation across the whole of the business.

As Trusted Business Advisor (TBA), it will be your job to not only analyse the tangible data sourced from network reports and the like, but put it into the context of bigger picture. After all, you can advise all you like until the cows come home, but the more people share your vision, the higher the chances that you’ll be able to claim that you yourself are indeed trusted.

Let’s not allow the ‘T’ in TBA to become an industry myth. Even if it means strategically partnering with others who can help you step up to the plate. By helping to remove uncertainty at every level of the business and you’ll be adding value in an instant. Understand what’s playing out above and beyond the technology and you’ll be able to get a better handle on your chance to suceed.

Susanne Dansey is the Managing Director of Purple Cow Ideas Management – an organisation that facilitates a paradigm shift in the collaborative nature of the ICT Industry. You can follow her on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.

One thought on “Flexible Working: The Psychological Contract

  1. Pingback: Entrepreneurs – Discover How to Become a Super Affiliate Marketing Entrepreneur & Start Earning Huge Money Online! » Entrepreneurs

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