While most employees are in favor of flexible work options, if an employer doesn't implement them properly, the entire business could suffer.
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"Companies want to reap the benefits of work flexibility — cost savings, reduced turnover and increased employee satisfaction — without experiencing the perceived downsides to flexible work: Namely, productivity loss," said Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of the job listing site FlexJobs.
To help businesses avoid a drop in production, Fell offered several tips for companies trying to make their workplace more flexible:
- Plan out a flex strategy: Before sending one person home to work, or allow someone a flexible schedule, it's important to create a flexible-work strategy. Determine which departments and individuals will have access to work flexibility, what kinds of flex they'll be offered and who has the final say on any flex-work arrangements. Figure out the best metrics for tracking productivity in each individual case and department-wide, and make sure the new strategy is clear to everyone involved.
- Devise a trial run: Before launching a full-scale flexible work program, create a trial program using one department or a small group of employees from different departments. Plan to run the trial for a good length of time — one month or longer — to work out the kinks and gather real data. At the end of the trial, assess the outcomes and make adjustments before taking the program company-wide.
- Make communication a top priority: Without a specific communication plan in place for flexible work, the program is doomed to fail. Find ways for teams to continue communicating and collaborating with one another, even if everyone is scattered into home offices, or working different schedules. Use online collaboration tools like Yammer and join.me to keep employees connected and ensure continuous communication.
- Know that not everyone will be a good flexible worker: Telecommuting and working flexible schedules require specific traits that not everyone has. But don't shut down the entire flex-work program just because a few people aren't cut out for it. Instead, consider other perks that can be offered to employees for whom flex work isn't a good option, while continuing to let the majority of employees take advantage of work flexibility.
- Train managers to manage flexible workers: Managing a flexible workforce isn't the same as managing a traditional one. Yahoo learned this the hard way when it discovered that some of its telecommuting employees hadn't even logged in for months yet were continuing to get paid. Where were their managers? Train managers to ask questions, challenge their team and be available through a variety of communication methods — phone, email, instant messaging, etc. Make sure they schedule regular phone meetings, or face-to-face meetings if possible. Use different methods of communication so that no team members are left out.
"Companies who don't prepare a flexible work strategy are usually the ones who claim that flexible work makes their teams less productive," Sutton Fell said. "But with the proper planning, a trial period and constant open communication, flexible work programs can work for companies and employees."
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.