Flex-work is a growing trend, with many companies worldwide offering employees a level of choice about when and where they work. Touted benefits include improved health and employee loyalty and lower office costs. However, successful flex-work programs don’t just happen. Making flex-work work requires strong, clear management and communication, a transition to output-based management and full team member engagement.
Clear Management and Communication
Employers must be able to articulate the why and the how of their flex-work policies. All flex-work arrangements should provide a clear benefit to the organization. Options, parameters and degrees of formality or duration should be communicated clearly, and a consistent process for requesting, implementing and assessing flex-work options should be developed to ensure clarity and fairness.
In a flex-work environment, management by presenteeism is neither relevant nor appropriate. By allowing employees to customize their work structure, you are necessarily refocusing on results. For a smooth transition, set mutually agreed upon, concrete performance objectives with all of your employees to ensure fair and consistent evaluation. Create policies by which performance is measured openly, regularly and in a manner that is clear and easy to understand for everyone involved.
Every workplace is unique, so involve your team in identifying the best flex-work options. Flex-work is not simply a variation on a theme. For the majority of workplaces, it is a fundamental shift in the employee-employer relationship. Managers must be willing to engage employees in conversation and collaboration. If for some reason you can’t approve a flex-work request, follow up with the employee to discuss why and determine whether another solution is possible that meets their needs. By engaging employees in this way, you will build a feeling of personal and shared responsibility that is vital to a successful flex-work environment.
Your work isn’t finished once a structure and process have been created. Keeping flex-work on track and effective requires constant vigilance and assessment. As a manager, you play a key role in successful implementation.
Here are some tips for long-term flex-work success:
- First and foremost, keep in mind that flex-work is a tool to achieve more effective business results, not a reward for employees.
- Set clear trial periods for new policies and ongoing evaluation by all parties affected.
- Cross-train for increased flexibility, and collaboratively create backup plans for emergencies.
- Out of sight should not mean out of mind. Keep flex-workers active in workplace conversations by scheduling periodic meetings at accessible times and locations so they can attend in person. And don’t forget about or show favoritism toward flex-workers when considering employees for development opportunities and promotions.
- In all things, be transparent, consistent and fair.
A successful flex-work policy takes focus, collaboration and diligence. However, the improved results it yields for both your organization and your employees are well worth the additional effort.