Many managers struggle with managing flexible work options like telecommuting, reduced work week, flexible work hours, working remotely, and temporary work. There are many aspects to consider even if your organization has a flexible culture and supporting policies.
It is the manager’s responsibility to know their organization’s policies about flexible work options and respond to requests accordingly. Managers are generally responsible for evaluating requests and monitoring the outcomes. When done well, flexible work arrangements can help to create a workplace of choice and support other critical employer best practices like employee engagement, hiring, and retention.
What are the benefits of flexible work arrangements?
Flexibility improves wellbeing and prevents burnout: Employees who have more control over their workdays can experience positive benefits to their mental well-being, including lowered stress, less burnout, and increased job satisfaction.
Increased Productivity: Employees are technology enabled at home and work and they have a good idea of how they can be most productive whether that means calling in for a meeting, finishing email in the evening or taking quiet time remotely to finish a project.
Engagement, hiring and retention: Flexibility can be a win-win for everyone, whether it is a temporary situation or one of a more permanent nature. Having a flexible work place recognizes diversity of needs and supports a family-friendly culture. It also acknowledges that everyone faces a crisis now and then…an elderly parent falls, a nanny quits, a family member becomes ill. People are at their best at work when they feel supported and acknowledged. These are critical components to embrace if you want to be an employer of choice.
What can managers do?
- Know the HR policies on flexible work options. Discuss the parameters with Human Resources.
- Familiarize yourself with how your EAP and Work Life program can help someone who has a child or eldercare issue. Sometimes people ask for time off before they even tried to solve the problem.
- Flex by example. Try not to overwork yourself. Try online meetings or working remotely and coach people on how to do this well.
- Talk to peers. Have conversations with other managers who may be more experienced with managing a flexible workforce.
- Have an open door. Unless you start relationships with your employees, you may not know what people need. People will open when they start to see you as someone who values diversity and is willing to work with others to find a good solution.
- Don’t make assumptions. Many people have invisible differences such as disabilities or family situations that are unknown to you. Offer each person an opportunity to talk and tell you what’s going on and what they need.
- Know that when people have personal demands such as eldercare or caregiving, there may be a stigma about asking for help. Try to recognize how hard this might be and thank the person for sharing it with you.
- Communication and setting performance expectations are key in making flexible work schedules successful for the employee and the company. If you have a 40 hour a week employee moving to 28 hours a week, you will need to consciously adjust deliverables, time lines, and perhaps scope of the role.
It’s up to each manager to balance the needs of the organization and the needs of employees. This is difficult work and can be very stressful. As a manager, in addition to working with your human resource professionals, you can also talk to one of our HR consultants in the EAP for brainstorming and support around these important issues.