HR departments know all too well the fierce competition for top talent being waged today. And as you develop appealing compensation offers and benefits packages, there is one peak benefit that employees are clamoring for—and that’s flexibility. If you are still clinging to a fixed work schedule, you may soon be left behind; in fact one survey finds this is the top work benefit employers are expecting to add in 2019, and many workers won’t hesitate to move to another company with a more attractive benefit offering.
However, even if you want to add flexibility, there is the issue that not every workplace seems cut out for it. After all, you still have clients to deal with, and work that must be completed. The good news is that it’s possible to offer flexibility without throwing schedules out the window. Here are seven ways that you could consider adding a modicum of flexibility to almost any workplace.
- Determine the Hours that People MUST Be There, and Work Around That
Maybe you are in the Eastern time zone and primarily deal with West coast clients that could necessitate a longer day. Consider letting your staff come in a bit later on at least some mornings. Another option would be to rotate the team member who stays late to cover the West coast hours. The goal? To be available to successfully manage client issues without requiring the entire team to work all the hours.
- Identify Work That Can Be Done from Home
Even in a call center where employees are literally working the phones, see if there is some element of their work that they could do on their own time or at the location of choice, such as typing up reports or doing other paperwork. Employees who feel that you are keeping these types of opportunities in mind will be grateful when they are presented, even if they understand that the majority of their work must be completed on site.
- Let Employees Take Care of Personal Needs
Don’t make employees feel they have to hide the fact that they’re making a doctor’s appointment or shopping for a birthday present online during a lull. Just remember chances are they are answering work-related emails on their own time, too. The lines of work and leisure time continue to blend, and your team needs to know that you understand and respect that reality.
- Allow Employees to Trade Shifts With Each Other
If you work in an industry like retail or food service where employees work varying schedules, don’t make it onerous for them to trade shifts. Find an app that lets them do it themselves or create another system that allows them to trade or give away shifts. While you’re at it, talk to your employees about how they feel about the shifts they have. If you always give a Friday night shift to the same person, make sure that they are ok with it or set up a rotation. While seniority should count for something, you still want to make sure that all your employees believe the system is fair.
- Ask Employees What They Need
Often employees will be reluctant to speak up because they don’t want to seem as though they are complaining. Yet there might be some aspect of their hours that are challenging and could easily be changed. For example, a team meeting first thing in the morning can be hard for a parent. If it’s all the same to you, you could move the meeting to 10 a.m., or let them dial in from home. If it would accomplish the same goal, you could also cancel the meeting altogether and have people share their updates via email or a project management software.
You might also find that a devoted employee would work an extra hour or two after he has put his kids to bed if it allows him to leave early to see a soccer game or oversee homework time. Someone else who is a caregiver might happily cover early shifts that no one else wants in exchange for one afternoon a week off. The key is to ask your team what they need or want; let them know that you can’t always accommodate them, but you’re willing to try.
- Set Up Processes to Track Remote Work
Even if your staff is trustworthy, it can be a big leap to just let employees work from home on the honor system. It’s perfectly reasonable to set up expectations that a telecommuter has to be available at a certain time, or that employees must log into the work system so that you can track their hours. Keeping the controls a little tighter when you start offers the chance to eventually loosen them if things go well. Remember, it feels much more punitive to go the other way so err on the side of caution as you explore these new freedoms.
- Focus on Output Rather Than “Face Time”
The key to making it all work: Does it really matter where your team is doing their work as long as they are doing it? In some types of organizations, of course it does. But in others, the focus could shift from when and where the goals were accomplished to just the fact that they were.