Workplace Flexibility And How You Should Approach It
The allegedly entitled generation called millennials is probably the first one to experiment in many aspects of professional life. Their extensive reliance on technology and desire for workplace flexibility are among the leading factors. Their desire to work remotely using their personal resources often sparks a debate on are we really ready to accept the idea of flexibility at workplace?
The Millennial Employee’s Take
Millennial employees like to seek freedom as a source of motivation. Hence, they advocate and feel very strongly about flexibility at workplace. There’s a valid argument of them ‘enjoying’ work from home rather than travelling for hours in peak-hour traffic just to get to the office. They back this by saying it helps them get more done and saves the company some additional money too.
The Managerial Take
Managers and leaders, on the other hand, take this arrangement with a pinch of salt. Companies already invest a lot while setting up a new workplace to make it comfortable and welcoming for employees. They also have various perks like the cafeteria, pool table, foosball and much more to keep them coming to office. Those in supervising positions also feel more comfortable when they can get more done from their team sitting in front of them during office hours.
CEOs and business owners thus raise some really relevant questions:
1. How will I get the work done if everyone is away from office?
2. If half or more than half the staff doesn’t turn up on a regular basis, what’s the point of such a huge office space?
3. How can I build my organisation’s culture if my employees are distributed at various locations?
The questions are extremely valid and relevant from a business owner’s point of view. And so to help you with it, here’s how you should approach the idea of flexibility at work.
How should you approach the idea of flexibility?
When approaching the idea of flexibility, the first step for every entrepreneur or CEO is to take into account the mindset of everyone, including themselves. Today, the number of hours put behind a particular task is directly proportional to the results produced. Hence, losing even a single minute of time could impact the result in a very significant way.
Initiate a conversation on what would you expect from an employee in a regular 8-hour shift or a 40-hour week. Check with them if they can achieve the set goals in a lesser time frame? If so, you need to consider if you would be okay to let go of the time-driven corporate culture for your company? Or would you still want them to put in a specified number of hours at the desk?
Once that is done, you need to establish a more focussed and task-oriented conversation with your employees who display interest in working within flexible environment. Here are 3 questions that you might definitely need to deliberate upon:
1. Is it possible to work remotely for the tasks assigned to the employee?
2. Is the employee willing to accept the flexible working arrangement?
3. Will the employee manage to work in sync with others working remotely and those in office too?
If both you and the employee respond positively to this, you can move towards the second step of deliberate consideration of flexible workplace environment. This opens up 3 doors for you to choose from:
Types of flexi-working options available
Flexi workplace could mean different things in different companies.
• For some it’s based on the work hours (Flexi enter and exit timing)
Employees are not penalised for entering late and/or leaving early as long as they complete their work or fulfil the minimum working hours. This works where the time on desk is not directly related to the amount of work done.
• For some it’s based on the patterns of work (Split shifts, part-time working)
This is possible when work is highly process driven and when the process requires more number of individuals. Calling individuals in shifts or split shifts allows the employees to rotate shifts and automatically makes work flexible.
• For some it’s based on the location (work from home)
This is the simplest form wherein the employees work from their home or any remote location of their choice. They don’t visit the office unless specifically mentioned or required by you to complete some procedure or attend some meeting. Typically, in such a situation all employees are expected to report to work on one fixed day. This allows the team to regroup and jump into another work week with ease.
5 essential aspects to prepare before introducing flexi-working:
After all the deliberation and internal discussions, if you do decide to roll with flexi-working in your workplace, you need to prepare a list of things that would make this transition smooth for your employees. We recommend that the following systems that you need to should follow, these include:
1. MIS systems
You need to have your Management Information Systems (MIS) in place to organise, track, evaluate and manage your employee behaviour. This is not just needed to sync work for those in office but also those working remotely and to each other.
2. Employee Policy
Before accepting the idea of flexibility, you need to have a clear employee policy in place. This should mention all the various criteria, rules, red flags, terms and conditions and other basic information that clearly explain the ‘terms of work’ under flexi-working. Have a copy of this given to the employee as well for them to read and acknowledge it so that there aren’t any conflicts later.
3. Draft your SOP
Along with the employee policy, ensure that every employee working remotely receives a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) document. This would serve as a reminder to each employee on what they must be doing on a day-to-day basis while working remotely.
4. Induct your employee into the new policy
It is a known fact that a policy rollout over email is not the ideal way to introduce a new employee policy. Let your work flexibility policy be no exception. Go out of your cabin and explain this to all your employees as to what is the new policy and how do you plan to execute it. A simple briefing, followed by team meetings could go a long way if done correctly.
5. Remember, it’s not easy going back from flexi-working
Flexible working environment is usually a one-way street. Once you start in that direction, it becomes really difficult to come back to regular office timings. You need to be mindful of the leeway that you give and norms you set for flexi-working. Setting too casual rules for the present employees could put you in a fix with others. Hence, have a policy that is more universal and uniformly accepted as any other employee policy.
Future of workplace flexibility
There should be an equilibrium between flexibility and actual presence at the office. Having managers that are considerate and flexible towards their employees can lead to a better and healthier work environment. Employees also need to be sensitised about the amount of commitment and dedication involved in the deal so to make it possible for them.
Yellow Spark is proficient in drafting customised employee policies and providing policy induction training for your employees. You can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to initiate a discussion about a customised flexi-working policies for your organisation.
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.