Should your organization offer more scheduling freedom?
The most common work flexibility programs are teleworking, part-time work hours and flexible starting and stopping times, according to the most recent workplace flexibility survey from nonprofit human resource association WorldatWork.
In recent years, the practices have gained popularity — and show few signs of decreasing. WorldatWork’s research also found that just 1 to 3 percent of the organizations that have offered flexible work options had terminated them in the two years prior to the survey.
In fact, workplace flexibility programs are an option for some or all employees in more than 80 percent of companies. Generally, a flexible work hours program was the most common.
In some countries, flexible working hours have become more than just commonplace; they’ve become a required option. As of 2014, due to a government mandate, all U.K. employees can request flex hours and expect the suggestion to be considered “in a reasonable manner,” according to BBC News.
In New Zealand, all employees can request a change to their working employment starting on their first day at work. Employers are required to respond to any requests, in writing, within a month.
Studies have shown that flexible working hours can have a positive impact on workers’ health, job satisfaction and help employee retention—providing a number of benefits for both employees and employers.
If your organization is thinking about instituting a flex hour, teleworking or other program, consider the following best practices:
Make it formal
Although WorldatWork found that many organizations don’t offer specific employee or manager flexible work arrangement training, ones that do seem to see benefits. Organizations that rate themselves higher on the flexibility scale — often the result of such actions as providing training on how to be successful with flexible work schedules, instituting a formal, written flexibility policy and using flexibility programs as a key benefit to attract new talent — have a lower voluntary turnover rate.
Workplace flexibility programs work best when managers are engaged
The National Workplace Flexibility Study, conducted by organizational structure consultancies Life Meets Work and Career Life Alliance, along with the Boston College Center for Work & Family, found that programs were far more effective if managers were trained on how to evaluate requests and oversee a team that works flex hours, from home or in another flexibility situation.
Clearly communicate the policy
Employees and employers need to both understand and agree on total time and work expectations — or you risk productivity drop-offs and frustration. Canada’s HR Council for the Nonprofit Sector suggests employers make sure staff understand the specified amount of hours they need to work (which can also help you manage workflow and employee stress/potentially increasing employee retention rates) and maintain frequent face-to-face and electronic communication, via phone, video chat, email and other applicable methods.
Make sure your technology is compatible
Implementing new software and getting remote workers up and running on pre-existing systems, including the cost of cloud services and hardware, can be significant concerns for large corporations, according to HRZone. Employees providing their own phones, laptops and other devices — and coupling them with security systems — may be a cost-effective solution for organizations trying to mobilize a remote workforce.
Rethink the way you gauge success
As a recent SHRM report on future HR global trends noted, many organizations may benefit from revisiting their current performance measures, as the workforce becomes more flexible and mobile. New evaluation models may be required, and HR teams should potentially review their remote worker communication and management practices periodically to ensure they are working.
And remember: You don’t need to become fully flexible overnight. Instead of rolling out your flex hours policy immediately, you may want to try a month-long test-run — which, according to Entrepreneur, will let you gauge what type of productivity levels result from the change.
For additional advice, our How to Make Workplace Flexibility Work for You blog post offers suggestions to help you add a flexible working hours or similar program — and reap both the employee retention and other benefits.