Enabling Employee Flexibility & Maintaining Effectiveness

Being able to adapt to change quickly can make a business more sustainable and enable it to capitalize on trends, current events and customer feedback. Businesses that value flexibility among their employees can support their workforce to manage changes in circumstances as seamlessly as possible.

 

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Key factors for promoting employee flexibility

Employees who are willing to expand their remit and take on assignments that might involve learning new skills are valuable to their employers. A flexible employee will take on additional responsibilities, use an innovative approach to problem-solving and be more productive than one who works solely within the remit of their job description. Businesses that want to capitalize on that level of flexibility can help create an environment in which flexibility will thrive. Here are some key factors for promoting flexibility:
 

  • Leading by example
  • Offering a variety of options
  • Recruiting for flexibility
  • Changing the thinking around flexibility

 

Leading by example

Businesses can promote flexibility by being flexible themselves. An employer that offers staff the chance to work from home in order to manage their family commitments may benefit when they need staff to stay late to complete a project. Similarly, in an office where staff routinely help each other to manage their workloads, one individual being off sick is not so disruptive as their colleagues will be better prepared to cover their responsibilities.

 

Offering a variety of options

There are plenty of ways to promote flexibility which can include:
 

  • Offering sabbaticals for long-serving members of staff
  • Offering compressed working weeks
  • Unlimited paid vacation time
  • Leave for caregivers
  • Flexible start and finish times
  • Using technology to limit travel for meetings

If employers can provide a range of options that will help employees manage their work and personal lives more effectively, they are more likely to benefit from flexibility in return.

 
Related: Unlimited Vacation Policy: Why Employers Should Consider It

 

Recruiting for flexibility

Flexibility can be a distinct benefit when it comes to recruitment. Applicants value the ability to manage their own time, so organizations that offer such flexibility increase the number of potential applicants. Robust hiring practices should also help a business to recruit staff that will appreciate the benefits of two-way flexibility and work within the flexible system to the benefit of everyone involved.

 

Changing the thinking around flexibility

Although flexibility is undoubtedly an important part of an employee’s role, managers should consider it a strategic business move rather than simply an employee perk. While flexibility can raise concerns about performance, placing the emphasis on results rather than maintaining traditional staffing systems can make it easier to manage the transition to a more flexible working style.

 
Related: How to Hire Employees

 

How to promote flexibility but still be effective

In a truly flexible workplace, presenteeism is eliminated and managers focus on results, not the number of hours someone is at their desk. People all have different working styles, so allowing home-working for someone who needs peace and quiet to prepare a presentation will result in them being more productive as well as encouraging flexibility. There are a number of ways to ensure that flexibility is working for your business:
 

  1. Test your system
  2. Use technology to everyone’s advantage
  3. Set clear expectations
  4. Make the most of flexibility

 

1. Test your system

It is possible to determine the potential impact of flexible working practices by conducting a trial run. By implementing measures on a small-scale to gather data, identify potential issues and assess the impact and outcomes before making it more widely available.

 

2. Use technology to everyone’s advantage

Technology can also be used to great effect to increase flexibility. Meetings can take place online, information can be shared online and collaborative technology can collate contributions from key individuals regardless of their location.

 

3. Set clear expectations

Employees who understand the parameters of the arrangements are able to adapt effectively to the implementation of flexible working. Expectations for logging in at certain times or being available by phone during office hours must be clearly communicated. Goals and deadlines will help staff to manage their time effectively and enable managers to assess employee productiveness.

 

4. Make the most of flexibility

Employers who allow staff to work remotely and encourage flexible hours may find that they don’t need the office space required for a workforce that works in the office full-time. Some implement flexible working arrangements whereby staff work fewer hours during quiet periods and increase their output at other times according to the needs of the business, with their wages averaged out across the year. Measures such as this can reduce running costs and increase productivity.

 

Employee flexibility FAQs

Here are frequently asked questions about employee flexibility:

 

How can you measure employee flexibility?

Keeping track of the uptake of employee flexibility is one of the most effective ways to measure the level of employee flexibility. Looking at the uptake of flexible working schemes and comparing that to the performance of the teams or divisions most affected will give an overall picture of the effectiveness of employee flexibility initiatives. Employee feedback can also be an informative way to assess the impact of offering more flexible working options. It is also important to track the long-term effects of flexibility, measuring all areas that could be affected including recruitment, retention, sick leave and other metrics.

 

How can employers ensure productivity?

Some employers ask staff working flexibly to log-in between certain hours or otherwise log their time spent working. This can reduce the benefits of flexible working and end up being counterproductive. By setting goals and deadlines rather than requiring certain hours spent at their desks, employers can pass responsibility for completing projects to their employees. Evaluating their efficiency becomes a matter of recording their progress against their goals, reducing the need to keep track of their hours worked.

 

How can employers reduce the stigma of flexibility?

Despite the increasing popularity of flexible working, there can still be some stigma associated with flexible working. Employees believe that if they make use of the flexible options available, it could damage their chances of promotion or make them appear less committed. Company leaders need to reassure staff and lead by example to truly embrace flexibility within the company culture.
 

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