As technology rapidly erodes the traditional boundaries around where and when people can be most productive, flexible work (or flex-work) is quickly becoming the new normal. This is especially true for companies looking to attract and retain top talent and boost staff morale, empowerment and engagement. Almost every position can include at least some level of flexibility, but companies need to consider several factors for it to be a success.
We take a look at the different options available, what the benefits to both employers and employees are, and how to make sure you implement flexible work the right way.
What Does Flex-Work Mean?
Jobs can typically be made more flexible in one of two ways – time and place. Any employee who spends most of their time working on a computer can probably do their job anywhere there’s an internet connection.
Employees who do need to be physically present in order to perform their role – such as those in retail or manufacturing – can still benefit from more flexible shifts which allow them greater work/life balance.
But let’s cut to the chase – what’s in it for you?
Benefits of Implementing Flexible Work
By far the biggest advantage for companies which implement flex-work is the substantial boost it gives to employee engagement – perhaps the single best way to improve your business’ overall productivity and efficiency. Put simply, people who are happy in their jobs perform better and are willing to work a lot harder than those who are only there for a paycheck.
Other benefits of flexible work for employers may include:
- Reduced lateness and absenteeism
- Opportunity to potentially expand your current operating hours
- Reduced overheads on water and power, general office supplies, and even the option to eventually rent smaller, more affordable premises
- Talent retention and acquisition
- Reduced risk of employee burnout
- Improved creativity and innovation
- Boost brand image and reputation
Just How Flexible is Flexible?
If you’re now sold on at least trialing more flexible work for your employees, the next step is getting them involved. Explain you’re open to ideas, and give some suggestions of your own.
There’s a pretty broad spectrum when it comes to flex-work, from simply allowing employees to adjust their start and end time by one hour to better accommodate their familial obligations; to offering complete autonomy – i.e. you don’t really care how or when work gets done as long as it does. And for employees who do most of their work solo on a computer anyway, it’s easy enough to rent laptops your employees can take home with them, and simply schedule check-in times via Skype in the early days.
Every business is different however, and the solution that’s right for you will probably lie somewhere in the middle. Warehouse or fulfillment center workers, for example, can’t perform their duties away from the warehouse – but they shouldn’t be left out either.
Offer a later or earlier start, or perhaps the ability to go home earlier on Friday if all their tasks for the week have been completed. They might even prefer one extra paid leave day a month if they agree to stick with your standard business hours, or the option to extend their shift hours four days a week and have an additional day off. Scheduled correctly with workers and supervisors, this could potentially mean that you have someone available at your premises to receive deliveries or send out shipments beyond your standard business hours – making you more competitive.
Be sensitive to the fact that it’s likely workers from poorer backgrounds without formal education who end up working in these kinds of roles. Failing to show you have at least considered their needs, especially if you are offering highly flexible hours for ‘white collar’ staff, may even be viewed as discrimination. The most important aspect is that you get as much employee input and feedback as possible.
Trial, Test and Adjust
It’s impossible to foresee every challenge and predict every scenario when implementing flexible work arrangements. While the majority of workers will welcome the chance to work from home, some may find they start to feel a little isolated, or struggle to stay motivated when working independently. On the other hand, staff you might have been a little concerned about may turn out to flourish unexpectedly given more autonomy.
It’s vital that you remain open to adjustment and aim for a system of continuous improvement rather than expecting perfection right away. Once you’ve got the kinks ironed out, make sure to update your written company policies and documentation to reflect the relevant changes.
You also need to be mindful of keeping out-of-office employees in the loop. Have them Skype in on important meetings, give positive feedback on good work, and ensure they’re aware of little celebrations like work anniversaries and birthdays so they can attend if they wish to.
Any adjustment which offers as many benefits to both employers and employees as flex-work is also going to require a little sacrifice here and there – but the advantages it offers to your company will be well worth it!
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/katgparker/8679033348/