Running Your Business

5 Tips for Adapting to More Flexible Work Schedules

  • Workplace flexibility can play a huge role in attracting and retaining talent, but this won't mean the same thing for everybody

  • Be ready to provide a slew of options that employees across all departments and levels can take advantage of

  • Don't micromanage employees but, rather, trust them and ask for their input when designing solutions

Posted by September 19, 2020

As the demand for work-life balance continues to rise, some employers are meeting the call with flexible work arrangements. Loosening restrictions on schedules and continuing to allow for remote work can help you keep employees satisfied and engaged. Offering flexible work schedules can even entice new talent to join your ranks.

But as with any companywide policy change, flexible working hours present pros and cons. Consider these five guidelines to determine whether this benefit makes sense for your workforce.

1. Realize What Flexibility Really Means

Despite gaining traction in recent years, flexible work arrangements are nothing new. The technology and tools used to make them work are always changing, but their principles for success remain the same.

Firstly, flexible work situations must account for your employees’ unique needs and situations. Working parents may need time in the middle of the day to help children with their educations. Some employees may want to start earlier in the day or work late into the evening. Others may want to come into the workplace a few days a week—if it’s safe to do so, of course.

Secondly, this solution must consider the needs of your business. Good flexible work situations engage and motivate employees while keeping the business running smoothly. Work with your leadership team to develop the fairest plan possible.

2. Keep an Eye on Benefits Eligibility

How could a change in hours or location affect an employee’s benefits eligibility? This is an essential question to answer early on.

A schedule change won’t necessarily impact an employee’s overall hours worked. However, if changes will lead to a shortfall in qualifying hours for full-time or benefits-earning status, be upfront with your workforce about it. Sometimes, there’s no way around it, especially if your business is financially struggling due to COVID-19 factors, but you never want to label something as a perk if it takes away another benefit.

So before you launch any flex-time or job-sharing programs, talk to your lawyer about what they could mean in regard to benefits eligibility.

3. Make Equality a Top Priority

Some jobs are better suited for remote work than others. Additionally, some roles only work when the shifts are predictable, such as those within the banking or finance industries. However, try to afford some workplace flexibility whenever possible to every employee.

Whether it’s offering a less restrictive paid time off package or approving occasional work-from-home requests, even small accommodations are sure to be appreciated by your workforce. Just ensure that these perks aren’t disproportionately dispersed across departments or roles since everyone can benefit from flexibility.

4. Talk to Your Team

Corporate leadership can be reluctant to embrace flexible working hours if they assume they’ll threaten performance or company culture; they may also envision a scenario where everyone works from home without any accountability. Asking employees what they want and how they’d go about continuing to do their work, on the other hand, can yield helpful input that may get leadership on board with this solution.

Sending out anonymous companywide surveys and holding one-on-ones with employees can be beneficial as you consider flexible work situations. Additionally, empower your workers to speak up about what they need to do their jobs and when they may need extra flexibility.

By giving employees a say in how you handle flexible work schedules, you’re more likely to land on a process that supports them and your business at large.

5. Don’t Create Extra Work

An always-on culture can sometimes go hand in hand with remote work—and that’s a problem. If employees feel like they’re always being watched or expected to be on call 24/7, they may quickly burn out. Instead of micromanaging workers, schedule video meetings and check-ins when they’re absolutely necessary.

Additionally, don’t foster a culture where immediate responses are expected for chat messages and emails. Just because you can’t see employees at their desks, it doesn’t mean they’re slacking off if they’re slow to the punch. Trust your workforce and offer support if you see their work quality start to suffer.

The Future of Flexible Work

Workplace flexibility comes in many forms. With technology allowing for more meaningful efforts, we now see remote work, job sharing and split shifts changing the way employees work and live. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work and flexible schedules became solutions for the safety concerns of businesses worldwide.

If you’re on the fence about this solution, keep in mind that greater workplace flexibility is something employees across all generations crave. Additionally, even the tiniest of changes can go a long way toward boosting job satisfaction and engagement. So take your time and communicate with your team to settle on an approach that works best for everyone.

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