Angela is one of the country’s top age group triathletes and trains multiple times a week, Chester and his partner have just had their second child and he works part time to spend more time with his kids, Katie heads up two local board meetings every month, Blake spends half a day a week working on a small side business creating custom skateboards. These star employees love that their employers give them the flexibility to spend time doing what drives them personally.
This flexibility is great for the community, great for employees and great for their workplaces because it means businesses are full of well-rounded, more diverse and driven people. These people may well choose your workplace because of that flexibility ahead of the competition down the road that enforces traditional and rigid working conditions.
So, how do you make flexibility work in the workplace?
Here are my seven top tips for managing flexibility in your team:
Right from the interview stage, create an open environment with your prospective employee that is free from judgement for discussing their personal circumstances and how flexibility might benefit them. This allows you and the employee to get everything out on the table early on because, at the end of the day, both party’s positions will become clear in due course—so why wait?
In my experience, you get the best from your people in a culture of trust and empowerment versus a command-and-control environment where people behave either passively or aggressively because of what they believe they need to do to ‘fit in’. Trying to squeeze flexibility into a command-and-control environment will be challenging as your team will never truly feel they are trusted. Ask yourself how you can let your people know they are trusted and encourage leaders to role model flexibility.
Realise that people want flexibility for many different reasons. Some may want to be able to run a side business supporting their interest or contribute to a community project. Some want to be more present for their families or take care of an elderly parent or sick child. Some may want to learn a new skill or just spend the time working on their physical and mental wellbeing.
All these things are good for the individual and if they need this time to become a healthy, content and resilient individual they are certainly more likely to be their best self at work. Surely that has to be good for business!
Policies are usually helpful in a low trust environment, however, by its very nature, flexibility requires trust between the employee and their leader. A lot of businesses put together ‘rules’ around flexibility where ‘guidelines’ are in-fact far more useful as they provide loose parameters to help individuals navigate what is required by the company while balancing their personal needs for flexibility.
With the help of video conferencing, high-speed wifi practically everywhere and cloud-based project management tools, the need to have everyone under the one roof at all times is far less. But the tech has to work! Work with your IT team and other services to invest in the right processes upfront—you and your employees will reap the benefits faster.
There are, of course, dozens of reasons why flexibility might not work, for example, staffing a reception desk or completing a specific project that requires a team to be located in the same location for a defined period. However, I encourage you to give it a go and think outside the box and I’m sure you will find a lot of the fears you had may not eventuate and you may even discover efficiencies and another level of engagement from your people.
If a flexible arrangement isn’t working, it is best to have an open conversation with the individual where you discuss what is and isn’t working from their perspective. Take onboard the learnings, move on and don’t let this stop you from trying again. Additionally, celebrate the successful examples where flexibility is working for both the organisation and the individual.
Overall, don’t be afraid to take the leap by trusting your people and see what happens.
If you want to find and keep the best talent at a time when there is a talent shortage, we’d love to chat about strategies for adding flexibility and other ways to enhance your workplace culture.
Contact the People and Culture team on +64 (06) 759 7044