Flexibility has gone from a nice-to-have perk in many jobs to something that prospective employees use to evaluate job offers. In fact, the best human resources practices have learned to craft policy that accommodates this need, and companies that give managers the tools, support and agency necessary can foster an environment of flexible working that benefits employees and the organisation as a whole.

Team collaboration software is the first tool that should be considered. With a platform where everyone can meet and work together, the group remains intact, even if people aren’t in the same office on a given day. Team leaders can see whether everyone is contributing as necessary and whether milestones and goals are being met, and they have visibility into all phases and aspects of a project. A good collaboration tool will also provide comprehensive document management: file sharing, adequate storage, version control, and editing functions.

The personal aspects of flexible working can be the trickiest to manage. Leadership style contributes much to the environment in which people work and how satisfied they feel with that environment. Managers have a very tough job: They walk a line every day between making sure things are getting done and not making staff feel they are being watched and micromanaged every moment. They must report up and they should ensure those under their leadership are engaged and motivated (and, thus, more productive).

Perhaps the top priority for any manager, especially when it comes to creating a flexible work environment, is to be consistent: in tone, in message, in recognition, or in discipline when necessary. You also need to be thorough, considering as many angles as possible to a situation. If, for example, you have particular rules about when and how often staff can work out of the office, be consistent about how those rules are applied so there’s no favouritism being shown.

The corollary to this is to take a long and broad view, observe and listen, and apply what you learn to get the most out of everyone’s strengths and challenges. Do you have a great team member who consistently comes in five minutes after 9 a.m. but works late and cracks up new ideas on the weekends? Then it is likely that your policy of punishing that great employee for tardiness with reduced bonuses or other disciplinary measures will eventually cause that person to leave you for an environment that rewards their talents. In today’s business climate, that kind of attrition will leave your organization weaker and unable to grow well.

In the end, companies might assert culture from the top down with vision statements, but real people are responsible for making those visions a reality, and that’s where things can go wrong – or, with the right tools and support, where they can go right. Fostering team collaboration through good software and empowering good managers who think strategically about the business, its goals and its people will ensure the latter.