How to Make Flexible-Work Policies A Success For Your Company
Flexible work options or flexible-work may be ideal in today’s scenario where people are ridden with stress due to unceranity, and not just now, it has always felt ideal given the terrible work commutes and being sandwiched with responsibilities of caring for elderly parents and their own children, maternity and so on. Several companies are considering flexible work policies to the changing times. Yet, there is hesitancy as it is still an evolving concept, and there’s a huge gap between expectations and execution.
Flexible-work doesn’t mean that an employee has the freedom to come and go whenever they please. There needs to be structure and proper accountability if flexible-work options need to work for both employers and employees.
Several Indian companies from consulting to FMCG, marketing, and IT (like Coca-Cola, KPMG, Future Group, Johnson & Johnson, Infosys, Wipro) are reported to have adopted flexible-work policies to suit their employee needs.
The key is to remember that each company is different, their workforce will have different needs, and their attrition levels will be different, and skill sets and job requirements are more transient. In fact, the entire nature of work and workforce is changing.
India is a young country and people in the age-group of 18-40 account for 60%+ of the population. Their world views are changing and what makes them more productive also has to be seen from a new lens. Going into what actually drives them is essential.
Not to mention, business cycles have changed rapidly, job opportunities have increased manifold with technology, social media and smartphone penetration. The pandemic among others such as urbanisation, long commutes, expensive office real estate have all become compelling reasons to consider flexible-work options. So going forward, it will no longer be an option but will become a necessity. It will increasingly become a good way for companies to attract and retain the best talent.
Here are some ways you can ensure a flexible option works for your company:
1. Conduct a detailed survey
For starters, it would be good to assess whether a flexible work policy will actually benefit your company. The truth is it’s a very attractive option from the employees’ perspective. However, if it has to work for the company, a thorough survey should be conducted to see tangible benefits. In a way, the pandemic has served as a litmus test for every organisation. Based on the recent experince coupled with a through employee survey, you can decide how many employees you need on a flexi-time basis, how many you need on a part-time basis and whether to offer an option of a compressed work-week to employees if they require it. Once this is done, policies and guidelines can be put in place.
Firstly, you have to assess the nature of the work your company is engaged in. What shape has it taken during the pandemic year. Also see if everybody employed needs to be on the full time payrolls. IT companies, banking and financial services were among the first to adopt outsourcing jobs to reduce costs. It can be noted that now, the number of temporary jobs is increasing, irespective of the sector. It will benefit the company to redirect expenditure towards a more current requirement to improve efficiencies.
For this, a survey would help assess what the core-needs of your company are that would require permanent staff. The rest of the employees can be hired on a contractual basis.
If the demographics of a company are younger, the attrition level is bound to be higher. Younger employees are seeking more flexibility and will choose monetary benefits over organisation loyalty. Also, strict office timings, organisational hierarchy are not a priority to them. Therefore, to ensure productivity, the HR teams have to find newer ways of engaging with them. In such cases, offering them flexible work contracts that are not time-bound, and are more result-oriented will be more efficient.
Conducting a survey will not only help your company assess the nature of its workforce, but also help design better employment policies.
2. Build clear communication channels
Once you have identified the employee structure, i.e., how many permanent workers you need, how many are flexi-time, how many are part-time, and how many can do with a smaller work-week, you need to define the communication channel to avoid confusion, ensure accountability and keep the process transparent.
While a flexible work option can be very appealing to an employee, its benefits are only made possible by clear communication and a strong organisation policy. Without them, flexible work arrangements can lead to missed deadlines, incomplete projects, annoyed and frustrated managers and coworkers.
If several members of the team are working remotely from different location within the city or different cities and time zones then an assigned time of day to touch base on projects, and a common communication group either on Whatsapp, or e-mail or both, is a good start for accountability.
A face-to-face meeting on the project at least once a week will also help the managers assess if there is progress on work. If a team member is operating out of a different city, it is very easy to get them on a video conference call during the meetings.
In case an issue arises, and there is a need for conflict resolution, having a group leader, or a single person to direct the issue too, is very important. This will lead to less confusion and chaos. If such measures are instituted, flexible-work will be a very productive and positive thing.
3. Structured performance appraisal
HR professionals have to think out of the box when it comes to performance appraisals of employees with flexible-work options. In this regard, HR practices are still based on what has worked in the past.
The annual appraisal was designed at a time when long-term careers driven by wage increases and job titles were the norm. As job titles matter less to millennial, who instead need to be challenged, and feel they are adding value to the organisation. At the same time, they want to be managers of their own time. These needs may not be met by a system of annual reviews. A performance appraisal needs to use a process of feedback, peer reviews to see what the employee requires and focus on improving that.
Performance appraisals are also often seen as being stressful, and uncomfortable exercise, rather than one of positivity. Once this view is altered, more positive change can take place. It may also be outdated in the current fast-paced business environment. The appraisal can, therefore, be a rolling review rather than a fixed one.
4. Encourage job-sharing or collaborative working
Job-sharing programmes or collaborative working can have two benefits. It can help an employee give more time to personal needs, and will have a safety net of ensuring very thorough results for the work assigned. It can reduce the need to hire more people, can repurpose people who may not have very intensive projects or jobs currently, and is also a great solution to address attrition.
To make this successful, however, HR professionals will have to clearly define the sharing of responsibilities to avoid conflict. It may prove tricky if one employee is undertaking most of the workload. Therefore, the clear definition of roles and the terms of assessment of work should be very clearly stated.
5. Encourage alternative interests and the pursuit of hobbies
Workplace flexibility ties back to a greater desire for balance. This has little to do with schedules but can make a huge difference in recognising the other sides of employees’ personalities. This is great for team building as well, and may also showcase aspects of employees’ personalities that can be honed in a better way towards their jobs and projects.
Also, it can help employees become closer, and hence might reduce conflicts, and open out the communication channels.
There are plenty of reasons to incorporate more workplace flexibility into the company culture. With a bit of thought, it is easy to implement. It will lead to better employee satisfaction and improved quality of output. The lasst year has shown us that, at the same time, a balance should be struck between flexible work and actual presence in the office. Employees have to be constantly reminded of the commitment and dedication to make it a success. Also, from the employer’s perspective, a constant review of flexible-work policies is important, at least till the practice becomes a norm.
At Yellow Spark, we help our clients develop employee policies that integrate with operational needs. If you want to explore designing such policies for your company, write to us – firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.