Workplace Flexibility – How, Where and When you Get the Work Done

Employees have lives in addition to their careers and their ability to balance those other priorities in life significantly impacts their satisfaction on the job.  Employees who are worried about the safety of young children or elders in their lives may be distracted at work.  Employees who have to miss a key event a school or the big little league game may start to resent their employer and become frustrated with their job.

Companies who have recognized the value of workplace flexibility are often rewarded with “best places to work” designations by various publications and this makes them key target companies for individuals searching for jobs.  Employees want to work for companies who give them some flexibility.  These employees want to be successful in their careers but they want to have some flexibility in how they achieve that.  Being tied to rigid work hours or a specific location may not work for some employees and the employees may not be working at their most productive levels.  People who want to excel at work often want to excel in other areas of their lives as well.  Helping employees do that significantly increases employee loyalty.

Flextime – Offering flexibility in work hours helps employees juggle their commute, out of work responsibilities etc. while enabling them to be their most productive at work.  As long as key deadlines are met, it doesn’t really matter if the work is done at 6 am or 10 pm.  I know there was research that showed employees willingly worked more hours if they had flexibility over when they worked.

Telecommuting – Not all jobs lend themselves to telecommuting and not all people thrive in a telecommuting environment but for the right people in the right job it can be huge.  Employees don’t spend time commuting so they often use that time to work in a way that balances other priorities.  To successfully telecommute, employees need to be self-motivated and diligent.  Work assignments and deadlines need to be clear and there must be regular communication to make it all work.  For many companies not willing to commit to full-time telecommuting, allowing a day a week or even a day from home for special projects requiring time without interruptions can go a long way towards increasing employee satisfaction.

Job Sharing – This allows two people to full one-full time job with complementary schedules and some overlap.  The company often saves money since neither position if full-time and benefits eligible but it retains well trained, motivated workers who want or need to work less than a full-time schedule.

Younger employees who may have watched parents work too hard and too long at the expense of family time and priorities are often not willing to make the same sacrifices.  To excel in all aspects of their lives, work needs to be more flexible.  This doesn’t mean they won’t work hard.  They can be very hard working, high achieving employees and they will tend to be more loyal to the company if they are afforded some flexibility.  It is a highly valued benefit without cost to the employer.

Years ago when I worked in the worklife industry, we had developed a business case that demonstrated that work flexibility contributed significantly to the bottom line with lower turnover, less time off and increased productivity while at work.  It is a win-win for the company and the employees.  It also helps attract other high quality employees.

If you personally need more flexibility in your work, put together a proposal to your manager.  Do not focus on what the flexibility does for your personal life but focus on how productive you can be, how responsive you will be to clients and co-workers, how and when the work will be done and how you will receive and review feedback.  Put a thoughtful, business proposal together and it should receive serious consideration when you keep the focus on meeting the business needs.

Asking for Flexibility-In these days of tight budgets and limited merit increases, flexibility is often more valuable to the employee than the dollars.  That said, it may not always be the best policy to position it that way when asking your manager for flexibility.

Present a Plan and a Business Case-Present your manager with a proposal of how the work will be done.  Focus on how the needs of the business will be met while accommodating your need for flexibility.  There is no doubt it will be helpful to you personally but if you approach it as a business decision, you are most likely to have a positive response.  Anticipate possible objections and concerns and address those in your proposal.  Demonstrate that you have given this considerable thought and planning.

Build in an Assessment-Agree with your manager to review the situation in six months to ensure that everyone’s needs are being met.  Be sure to have clear criteria for the business deliverables to you can demonstrate how you have met or exceeded the goals.  Keep the focus on getting the work done, not when and where it gets done.

Keep it Separate from Merit Discussions-You are still evaluated on how you do your job regardless of when or where you perform those tasks.  Keep the performance review and merit increases in a separate conversation.  Do not equate flexibility as payment for doing your job.  Don’t limit your future earning potential.

Your Relationship With Your Manager Matters-Many companies have formal flexibility policies but even then there is no guarantee that a particular manager will approve your request.  It is absolutely critical that they manager knows the quality of your work and trusts you do meet deadlines with quality work regardless of when or where the work is being done.  Without that level of trust, it is difficult for the flexible arrangement to succeed.

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