As many workplaces become dominated by individuals working on computers, communicating electronically and developing documents or reports of many kinds, the potential for workplace flexibility has grown. Businesses are reasonably nervous about the potential hazards of working from home or other forms of flexibility: the biggest concern is often logistical, thinking that everyone will want something slightly different and create a workplace nightmare of unclear schedules and poor performance.
The good news is that, with a few simple structures, you can offer workplace flexibility to your employees and avoid any kind of scheduling snafus. The even better news is that your employees will truly appreciate it, and you'll save tons of money on otherwise-bad turnover rates.
Benefits of Workplace Flexibility
One of the benefits of workplace flexibility is that, if you have strong management in place already, it will become quite apparent if there are any issues with individuals who need coaching in order to work well, both offsite and onsite. One myth is that working from home or working a flexible schedule makes people less productive; rather, a Stanford study shows that the motivation of getting extra time to themselves or more flexibility in their choices of workdays actually makes workers more motivated!
Also, imagine being able to offer more competitive benefits without paying any extra money. Framed as benefits, consider these aspects of giving your team workplace flexibility:
- They save money on professional wardrobe options that would be needed for 5 days a week in-office.
- They save commuting time, money, and stress.
- They may even be able to consolidate to fewer family vehicles without an ever-present commute, saving on insurance.
- They get the opportunity to take appointments or trips to the gym without taking bits and pieces of PTO, simply finishing their work later in the day.
- They feel empowered to make their work strong!
The Muse points out that the transition to workplace flexibility often gives people the opportunity to reevaluate and reconstruct entrenched strategies, such as long, ineffective meetings, and make communication much more seamless. You are likely to find that any flexibility offered, as long as it is offered in a context of hands-on management, will be incredibly effective.
Steps For Greater Flexibility
Alright, so perhaps you've offered some work-from-home opportunities to your employees, but you want to see those boosts to productivity again through giving your employees more of the flexibility they desire. How can you keep offering more attuned scheduling and work? Here are some ideas.
Allow Shifted Schedules
One simple new strategy, especially if you manage a combination of onsite and remote workers, is to allow shifted schedules rather than expecting consistent 9-5 or 8-5 coverage. Many employers assume that their employees won't get all their work done if everyone doesn't have the same exact schedule; after all, how will you know when someone is "late"? However, a lot of jobs are non-coverage based, meaning that no worker is there just to cover phones, a walkup desk, or an online hotline where an instant answer is needed. For these jobs, the benefit of knowing when someone is "late" is much lower.
Yes, you want your managers to be aware if work performance is going down, but if work performance is good, the hours may matter less. One flexible step is to say that employees should be at work for at least X amount of hours per day, but they can flex this time in order to go to appointments, pick up or drop off kids, or just go to the gym at a time when it suits them. Abusers of a policy like this get found out, and if they don't... that's because they are accomplishing what they need to accomplish!
Allow Shorter Work Weeks
A great option for adding workplace flexibility is to allow employees to work fewer hours per week. For some organizations, this may mean a reduction in pay; but, for many, a shorter workweek may be attainable without a reduction in pay. Recently there have been large organizations that have experimented with moving their entire company to 4 days of work per week and found that, if it's managed correctly, this transition can occur without a reduction in productivity (or pay!).
Even if you allow employees to reduce their schedule with an associated reduction in pay, this benefit can rejuvenate those who are feeling burnt out with their work. Also, it can give work opportunities to those who may not have the ability to work a full 40 hours per week.
Generally, offering a shorter worker is a massive perk for employees. They can schedule appointments and errands for this day, or use less PTO over time, and this benefit is hard to find still, so you are likely to retain many employees because of it.
Cycle Workers to Part-Time When They Request It
One thing that many employers are worried about when employees request to go part-time is that they worry that they are less interested in the job. However, most employers really know that everyone has concerns other than their work, and going part-time can help them get through a highly busy season, such as a time when they are caregivers for family members. If you let your team know that you have a satisfactory way to let people go part-time and then transition back to full-time in the future, you'll find that some employees will take advantage of the option. However, others will simply appreciate that they could do this, in order to spend time with family, pursue a hobby, or any of a wide variety of other needs.
Poll High Performers About What Would Make This the Standout Job That Retains Them Long-Term
While these are some good ways to create workplace flexibility, every workplace is a little different, so your great employees actually know what would help them feel satisfied at work. Consider polling the top performers about what would help them enjoy their work even more while doing an excellent job. You may find that, in your particular niche industry, employees would love to be able to work shorter shifts with big breaks in between. You might find that, in your city, it's worth getting to work at 6am in order to cruise out of work at 2pm and miss all the rush hour traffic. Let the stars on your team help you make workplace flexibility (and thus, employee motivation and low turnover!) a cornerstone of your company.