Make Flex Schedules Work for your Workplace

Flexible work arrangements, flex hours, flexible schedules–whatever you want to call it–one thing remains the same: flexibility. Offering employees flexibility in their hours shows that you trust them and fuels empowerment. Even the President supports flexible working hours.

However, flexible work arrangements shouldn’t be entered into lightly and may not be for every workplace.

They have quite a few pros such as:

They also have potential cons:

  • Communication difficulties
  • Hampering of innovation
  • A decrease in productivity (Yes, the opposite is also listed as a pro)

If you’re contemplating a flexible work arrangement for your employees, here are the steps we suggest taking:

Ask Yourself, “Does it Make Sense?”

Some jobs don’t lend themselves to flexible hours. For example, if you need coverage for a retail store front or for a hospital, a flexible work arrangement might not be for you. However, most offices operate even better with a properly implemented flexible arrangement.

When it comes to flexible work arrangements, there are quite a few options to choose from including:

  • Telecommuting – Employees can work from home or another location
  • Flex hours – Employees are free to take time off for personal appointments as long as they make that time up later
  • Officially closing or opening the office early on one or two days of the week
  • Flexible starting and ending hours
  • Compressed work week
  • Job sharing

If you have a small office with one or two employees, it might even make sense to ask them for their input on which arrangement might work best.

Communicate

Once you’ve decided which flexible work arrangement will be best for your team, communicate this decision to employees as well as your expectations. For example, if you’re allowing employees to telecommunicate, how often can they do this? Are there any days they must be in the office? Keep in mind that you want a flexible work arrangement, not anarchy; the expectations and rules you set are what draws the line. However, these rules and expectations will differ by company.

After verbal communication of the new flexible working arrangements, put everything in writing and distribute to employees so there’s no room for confusion. To ensure agreement on both sides, you can also choose to have employees sign an agreement that lays out the rules.

Hire the Right Employees

If you’re thinking about implementing a flexible work arrangement, you may be worried about employees taking advantage of the flexibility. Setting rules and expectations should mitigate that. However, sometimes rules are bent and expectations are misunderstood. To help prevent this from being the case, make sure that you are hiring the right employees.

The right employees for a flexible work arrangement will not only have the skills required for the job and fit the culture, but, as Recruiter Box says, will also possess many of the following characteristics:

  • Continuous education and personal advancement throughout their lives
  • Self-direction and motivation
  • Self-discipline
  • Responsiveness
  • Honesty and directness
  • Problem solving skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Time management skills

Employees with the above characteristics make for great hires, period, but tend to do especially well with flexible work arrangements.

Adjust Your Leadership Technique

There is a common phrase that’s highly touted as the way to lead, “Managing by walking around.” Great! Unfortunately that won’t work for you if you have a telecommuting team.

It’s time to get creative. If you’ve got employees working virtually, adopting some powerful tools will keep keep everyone connected. Some great collaboration tools include:

  • Google Docs – Edit documents in real time
  • Basecamp – Collaborate and share progress on projects
  • Skype – One-on-one video chat
  • Google Hangout – Similar to Skype, but it’s for groups and allows sharing of documents

For an even more thorough list, browse through Creative Bloq’s list of collaboration tools.

Embrace the Flexibility Yourself

If your employees hear that they’re allowed flexibility, but don’t see you or other managers putting it to use, they’ll wonder if the company truly supports flexible work hours. If they have any doubt in their mind that management is 100% in support of the flexibility, they’ll be less likely to use the flexibility you’ve provided fearing unspoken repercussions. And, if they do need to use the policy, but still have doubts, they’ll feel guilty which could lead to a decrease in morale. Flexible work arrangements are created to be used so lead by example!

If done right, a flexible work arrangement is one of the best things you can do for yourself, your employees, and your business.

Do you have any other tips for creating successful flexible work arrangements?

Image via Riley Kaminer, Flickr Creative Commons

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