The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

Workplace Flexibility Engages Employees

Flexibility engages employees!Everywhere we turn we hear that employees are being pulling in many directions. Demands of our organizations remain high as we rebound from one of the worst economic climates of our time. Employees are looking to connect with employers that understand their lives exist beyond the walls of your organization.

Allowing your employees to be flexible will create a greater sense of empowerment, buy-in and engagement. There is an article in Forbes which states the 5 reasons that workplace flexibility works. Managers have access to a larger talent pool, and you send employees the ultimate message that they are mature adults trusted to get the job done.

My daughter is a great example. At 24 years old she has recently moved back to Chicago and is building a life for herself as an adult. She has a responsible position with a large research organization, but is also involved in two social service organizations, a sports league and plays cribbage weekly at a local bar! Her organization has a very flexible work from home policy, which she uses as needed. Most of her work is Internet based, and as a national organization most meetings occur via conference call. It has been very beneficial when we get horrible snow in Chicago – she finds she is far more productive those days to start work promptly from home rather than deal with a two hour commute on public transportation arriving at work frustrated and wet. She has been approached by headhunters to move positions, but her first question is not that of salary, but rather what paid time off and tele-commuting benefits are available.

Another situation of flexibility is the day your workday begins. Many employees have commitments with children, but even those that take exercise in the morning seriously or the need to just organize their home may appreciate having control of their own time. Flextime is a great option to ease stress many of our employees feel. Consider if there is a real reason to have the entire workforce start at the same time. If not, work a schedule where everyone is in the office for the same period of “core working hours” but people are allowed to come and go on either side of that. Generally it works well if employees know they must be at work between 9-3:30, but are free to work their eight hour time frame on either side of that. The same would be true with making a decision to have a 30 minute or one hour lunch. If it doesn’t matter to the operational side of the business, consider providing employees flexibility to choose.

There are always those employees that use workplace flexibility as a reason to take an extra vacation day, or take an hour lunch when they have agreed to 30 minutes. In my experience, this is the exception not the rule. Properly document the unacceptable behavior of the few – but don’t remove the privilege from your entire organization.

The Department of Labor provides an excellent toolkit for addressing the issue of Flexible workplaces.  You can also reach out to your trusted HR professional for help establishing guidelines that will work in your organization.


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