Structuring your Flexible Workplace Plan

It’s no secret that today’s employees value flexibility. And with healthcare costs continuing to skyrocket, workplaces that allow employees to balance the demands of work, family, and health are becoming increasingly important for employers as well.

If your company hasn’t looked into ways to attract and retain talent by offering a variety of work and scheduling options, you’re falling behind the curve.

But you can’t just throw any old program together. Your flexibility plan needs to have a solid structure behind it.

What makes sense?

Depending on what kind of organization you’re running, the level of flexibility you are able to  offer will vary. Things like telecommuting, variable hours, and job sharing can work really well in some situations but be nearly impossible in others.

Even if you are really excited about the idea of being more flexible as a company, you’re going to need to examine just exactly what you can and can’t do.

Questions to ask:

  • Do flexible work arrangements make sense based on the type of work your staff performs?
  • Are their departments/positions where it could potentially work well?
  • Are there certain areas or locations where it just isn’t feasible?
  • How will you manage that difference?

Remember that flexibility comes in all shapes and sizes. If you can’t offer remote working options, perhaps you can be more flexible with hours and shift schedules. Or your paid time off policy. Or your dress code.

Evaluate each department separately to see where you can flex and where you can’t. If you’re not sure what your employees want, ask them. A simple employee survey can be very enlightening. Maybe all they really want is a new coffee machine in the break room and an extra ten minutes to enjoy it.

Once you’ve decided where you can be flexible, you’ll need to put a plan together that makes the can-dos work and the can’t-dos clear.

How will it work?

Offering to be more flexible without setting clear guidelines will only cause confusion for employees and frustration for you. You’ll need to create a well-defined structure and details for how your new policies will work.

Consult with department managers and supervisors to flesh out your ideas. Tell them what you’re thinking and brainstorm any issues that might arise, both with the implementation of the policy and the subsequent management of it. Work together to design a policy that mitigates any potential negative consequences while focusing on the benefits.

As you put your plan together, think about how offering alternative working arrangements can benefit your organization as well as your employees.

  • Could offering remote working options help your company reduce operating costs?
  • Would providing shift flexibility improve your recruitment and retention efforts?
  • Might altering your appearance and/or experience requirements open up a whole new applicant pool?

Being flexible in your processes isn’t just a way to do something nice for your employees. Being open to different ways of doing things can facilitate new opportunities for everyone involved. Including your business.

What happens when it doesn’t?

Even with the best laid plans, there will no doubt be instances where things don’t go the way you envisioned.

Whether it’s an employee who is taking advantage of his newfound flexibility, a remote worker who isn’t pulling her weight, or someone who discovers a loophole in the new policy, you’ll be much more prepared to deal with these situations if you’ve got clear procedures in place.

Develop strategies for how to address issues like absenteeism and poor performance, then put them in writing. Best case scenario, you’ll never need to use them. Worst case scenario, you’ll be glad you took the time to document them.

Keys to success

Employees want flexibility. And employers want happy, healthy, productive employees. Offering strategic alternatives to old-school, rigid workplaces can help you build a better team— and a better business.

Here are some ways to maximize your chances of success:

Do the research – Look at what other organizations are doing and talk with them about ideas and implementation. Take advantage of their hard-earned wisdom, and learn from their mistakes and successes. Keep in mind that every industry, business, and workforce will have different needs and solutions.

Get buy in – If your leadership and managers aren’t on board, it will be much more difficult to effectively create, implement, and manage these changes.

Empower employees – Involving staff in the process will ensure you’re giving them the benefits they truly value, instead of offering random perks you think they might want.

Set parameters – Make sure you have systems in place for when things go awry. Your policy should include clear and specific procedures to address employees and/or situations that clearly aren’t working.

Strong but nimble

Today’s employees want to be able to balance the many demands of work, life, and family. Finding ways to provide that kind of environment will give you a serious edge when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to bend over backwards. Take a careful look at your organization to see where and how you can offer employees the options they crave. Then, put some structure behind your willingness to flex.

Building a solid framework for your new policies will help support your efforts, your staff, and your business.


Photo by Prostock-studio

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