I’ve long seen the return in commitment, lowered absenteeism and productivity from my team that comes from offering flextime. I am also seeing an increased number of desirable candidates who won’t even consider working for a company that doesn’t have a flextime policy.
Most companies that I work with have had a casual flextime approach: staff can leave early for a doctor’s appointment or to fetch children, work from home for the morning when the geyser bursts etc. But can formalised flextime work for your company, as well as for your employees? I think yes.
No doubt, as I have, you’ve been getting more and more requests for flexible or non-traditional work schedules, which include:
- telecommuting (working remotely)
- a shortened work week (four days’ work for four days’ pay)
- a compressed work week (four longer days for fulltime pay)
- flextime (changing on-duty or on-site hours)
- job share (two people sharing one job)
To deal with these requests fairly, you’ll need to introduce official guidelines as to what is and isn’t permissible so that all managers can respond consistently. Inconsistency will lead to lowered morale. Having a formal policy will also minimise abuse of the system by staff and help employers track the impact of such arrangements, improve the benefits and reduce the pitfalls.
I think the best way to begin formalising your policy is to ask yourself what your motivations are. Do you want to attract candidates, engage/reward existing staff or reduce operating costs? Knowing what your goals are will help you bring structure to the programme.
Next be very clear about what types of flexibility will be available for which departments and roles. Not all roles are suitable for the same flexible work arrangements (for example reception probably couldn’t work from home but could adopt flexible hours or a shift approach) and decide who is eligible. Base this decision on business needs not on employee requests. Some employees will also prefer not to work from home so perhaps survey your staff first.
Get management buy-in (demonstrate productivity benefits) and give them adequate training to transition. It’s very different managing people in-office to managing them remotely. Their support for the programme and their consistent, knowledgeable implementation are crucial to its success.
Design a request and review process including steps for both employees and managers. Be sure to test your policy, building in a 3 month reassessment, before making it permanent. Establish a clear way to measure performance so it can be unambiguously evaluated – did productivity increase? How was the rest of the team affected? Top performers, who are typically self-motivated and need relatively little management, should be measured on their value to the organisation and their output rather than where they work from.
Of course it’s important to equip your flextime staff with ways to connect. Remote access to your network, smartphones, VPN, laptops, Skype, video conferencing – whatever works best for your environment.
With careful planning and a clear policy and procedures for supervisors and employees to follow, flexible working initiatives can make your workforce more productive than you might think.
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