With an increase in the number of companies offering telecommuting and flexible work options in the news, it’s no wonder you’re considering setting up your own flexible work program. Studies show that employees may be more loyal to an employer that offers flexible work options, and it creates better work-life balance for your staff.
But is a flexible program right for your company? Here are some considerations to factor in.
The Definition of Flexible
For some companies, a flexible work program means working from home or otherwise out of the office one or more days a week. For others, it’s about job sharing or working unconventional hours.
Decide what flexible looks like to you. What works best for your employees and your company’s needs? Also, talk to your staff. In a FlexJobs survey, more than half of those polled said they would be more productive and focused working from home. They know what makes them more productive, so getting their input will help make your flexible work program more successful.
These days, it doesn’t require a complex and expensive technology infrastructure to get employees telecommuting. If your employees have laptops and mobile phones, that’s all they need to work virtually.
Software like Skype, cloud-based storage, and web-based CRM systems help your staff work as a team without having to be in the office.
It’s important to understand what your expectations should be in terms of accountability once you can’t physically check in with an employee whenever you walk by her office.
Sara Sutton Fell, CEO & Founder of FlexJobs, says how your organization measures staff accountability is important.
“Do you rely on ‘face time’ as a key measure, or are you more focused on the completion of assigned projects? Is there regular communication by phone, email, or in meetings? Flexible work options work better when productivity is measured on results and with a high level of communication between colleagues,” Sutton Fell says.
Once you determine how employees will need to be accountable when working virtually, find the tools that will make the job easier.
Time tracking tools like Harvest help you keep up with which projects your staff are working on, and the time they spend on each.
Online calendars like Google Calendar allow you to get visibility into each employees’ schedule and plan meetings accordingly.
Video conferencing tools such as Skype help you connect with your staff, if only virtually.
Depending on each employee’s role within your company, as well as whether most of her work needs to be on-site or not, you can determine how much and what type of flexibility to offer, says Sutton Fell.
“…look at what percentage of your employees’ workdays are spent working independently by themselves or by phone, email, or Internet. It is that percentage of time that could be marked to offer flexibility, such as telecommuting or having an alternative or flexible schedule, because with technology, those tasks could be done from anywhere and at any time.”
It can take a major mind-shift to get your entire staff, from management down to new hires, on board with a flexible work situation. As Sutton Fell says, “most workplace cultures are of based on 20th century workplace ideals, technologies, and societal norms, rather than 21st century ones.”
The most important buy-in you’ll need to succeed is that from management and execs. Once they understand the kinds of expectations they’ll need, they can ease into understanding how flexible programs can benefit the company. And once your staff has been trained on using technology that allows employees to be effective off-site, you’ll see more enthusiasm as they get into a new rhythm of work with their team members.
Flexible work programs do work for many companies. The key is smart planning and managing expectations. Plan for the bigger picture, and get everyone on board, and you’ll achieve your goal of more autonomy and flexibility in the workplace.