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4 technology tips to help keep track of your flexible workforce

Lisa Messenger

Lisa Messenger is the CEO of The Messenger Group and founder and editor-in-chief of The Collective. She has authored and co-authored over a dozen books and become an authority in the start-up scene

Lisa Messenger

Lisa Messenger is the CEO of The Messenger Group and founder and editor-in-chief of The Collective. She has authored and co-authored over a dozen books and become an authority in the start-up scene

For Lisa Messenger, a flexi-workforce is a reality and she’s needed to build the tech infrastructure to cater for it.

One employee works Monday to Friday, another Wednesday to Thursday and another person’s schedule changes on a weekly basis. You have team members arriving at 9am and leaving at 5pm and others starting at 2pm and finishing close to midnight.

Sound familiar?

The old way of working – when all employees arrived at the same time, took a communal lunch break and then waited at the bus stop together – are long gone, or at least becoming rarer.

In its place is a ‘do what suits you’ ethos, with an increasing number of companies allowing employees to construct their own workday. According to a new survey by global research firm EY, of over 9,700 employees in eight of the world’s leading economies, “flexibility” was the top feature individuals wanted in a job (beating pay packet) and a lack of it was amongst the top reasons they might quit.

The question is, as the boss of a flexi-workforce, how on earth do you keep track of everyone, when nobody seems to be ‘on’ at the same time?

Here’s how tech-savvy leaders manage employees working flexibly.

An old fashioned punch card check in system.

Punch in and out

The concept of punch cards might sound old fashioned, but it has come a long way since factories had a timecard machine at their entrance.

Now digital versions allow employees to digitally check in when they start work and check out again afterwards. Some of the most popular include the apps TimeClock ST and Billing Hours or the online platform HiveDesk, which give bosses the ability to see how many hours remote workers are logging.

It also helps employees themselves as it can help them track overtime and whether a particular project has taken more man-hours than predicted.  

Tag them on Trello

You’ve probably already heard about the online to-do list Trello, which allows you to create ‘cards’ and ‘boards’ outlining projects and tasks that need to be completed.

But, a lesser-known feature is the Trello ‘tag’ function. If you need to get the attention of another employee who has access to your board, you can mention them in a comment just as you would tag someone on Twitter (@theirname) and Trello will notify them that you want their attention. It’s the 21st century equivalent of yelling across the office.

Have a worldly view

A lot of flexi-employees don’t just work on their own time frame, they also work from different cities or even different countries to their bosses. At times it can feel impossible trying to schedule a meeting time when everyone is available across multiple time zones.

The World Time Buddy app is simple but indispensable. It calculates the time difference between any countries you input and suggests relevant windows when everyone will be awake. You can also sync it to a Google Calendar so it will show when you are free and busy. It even alerts you to countries, such as Dubai, which don’t follow a standard Saturday-to-Sunday weekend.  

Give 15 minutes of praise

The online platform 15Five isn’t a tool I use personally, but I know that many start-up bosses swear by it.

The idea is that employees take 15 minutes a week to answer simple questions set by their supervisor (“What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced this week?” or “What have you been particularly proud of?”).

Then bosses log on and spend five minutes a week responding, either problem-solving or giving out praise (the layout looks similar to Facebook messenger). If you use the project-tracking platform Slack, you can also sync your 15Five stream to your Slack account and share praise or compliments with your entire workforce. 

It’s all about attitude

The real key to managing a flexible workforce is a positive mindset. Instead of seeing an employee’s unconventional work schedule as an inconvenience, try to take it as a compliment.

Think of it this way: it means they are inspired enough by your company and the service or product you are developing to be able to self-motivate. It takes a lot of dedication to sit down and work in the evening, when your partner/housemate is sitting down to a Netflix marathon.

If you surround yourself with a trustworthy and committed team, they should be able to do their best work, whether it’s at dawn, noon or dusk. I smile at my laptop when I see an email from a flexi-worker sent at 5am or 11pm. It means my company was progressing while I was sleeping.

And that’s never a bad thing.

Looking for more tips to manage your staff?

Read our 5 Steps To Staff Management.

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