Small businesses are hanging out “help wanted” signs. The 2016 American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor released in April indicates that 39% of small businesses plan to hire over the next six months up from 34% last year. Among their staffing needs, 16% of small businesses plan to hire part-time only employees, 11% are looking for both full and part time and 13% want full-time.

Underscoring the upward hiring trend are small business optimism (64%) and plans for growth (74%), according to the annual survey. Yet finding the right staff remains a problem. So much so that for the first time since 2007, small businesses say that finding the right staff has emerged as the number one challenge to growth.

The findings of the American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor echo concerns over finding and hiring the right help expressed by small businesses in a Plantronics survey conducted in 2013. Then 44% of respondents said that attracting and finding quality labor was the most difficult aspect of HR/labor management. Among Plantronics survey participants, 64% indicated that offering flexible, mobile and remote work options helped in staff recruitment and retention

Accommodate choice

A 2013 Gensler U.S. Workplace Survey found that workers given a choice of when and where they worked were not only more satisfied with their jobs; they reported higher levels of performance and innovation.  However, giving your small business team the choice to work at home, at a co-working space (possibly an option for remote employees) or in the office or to divide their time between these locations probably will require making changes in your work space and operations.

As an example, to accommodate flexible working at Plantronics headquarters, our Smarter Working environment provides unassigned desks in open work environment for employees who come into the office just a few days – or even less – a week.  In addition to desks, Plantronics provides employees with conference rooms for holding formal meetings as well as small, casual meeting areas complete with a white board where they can meet informally.

You also accommodate choice by enabling Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) so that your team can work from their preferred mobile devices. Make sure that your BYOD policy covers what devices are acceptable for work use and what types of apps can reside on personal mobile devices that are used to access company data. Also require passwords and ensure they are sufficiently complex. A strong password includes numbers, symbols and a mix of capital and lower case letters and guidelines. Specify at what time intervals passwords should be reset.

Provide tech tools

Mobile apps: A host of off-the shelf options mobile apps from app stores are cost effective and help maintain the productivity of your mobile and flexible workforce. Among them are note taking apps such as Evernote and Microsoft One Note; conference call management apps, including Skype and Avaya Scopia; and travel expense tracking apps such as Expensify and Expenditure.

Cloud computing:  With cloud computing, everyone in your business can access company information from anywhere at any time. That’s a great boost to productivity and collaboration as well as customer service. Cloud computing enables your small business team members to collaborate on the development of a document or presentation using any device.

Unified communications (UC): UC integrates desk phones, PCs, smartphones and tablets into one integrated data and voice network and also provides a host of collaboration tools – e-mail, instant messaging (IM), web and video conferencing and fax – accessible through the convenience of one interface. UC aids collaboration by making it convenient to launch a video conference, for example, and send IMs to other team members to join. On a call with a customer, you can conduct a chat session with another colleague to get answers to questions

Headsets: You can’t control the noise around. That goes for working in open-office environments, at home (think leaf blowers and barking dogs) or on the road in an airport lounge or coffee shop. Noise-cancelling headsets ensure you can be heard and callers can hear you. They also are necessary for conferencing and when you need to be hands free to take notes.

Your small business depends on a strong workforce. When you enable flexible work options and provide the right tools to work anywhere at any time, you and your team both come out ahead.