Seems like many employees view flexible work arrangements as an entitlement these days—maybe because HR has pushed the idea for years as a way to accommodate work/life conflicts.
Now more organizations are rewriting their rules regarding who can use flextime and how they can use it. Employers may perceive flex schedules as a key retention tool, but they’re no longer shy about insisting that day-to-day productivity can’t suffer because of an employee’s altered schedule.
Putting more structure and accountability into the process makes flexibility less of an ad hoc perk. Here are four ways to structure flexible work arrangements in a more systematic way.
1. Ask employees to apply. Create guidelines and systems for the administration of flex programs that address all business needs and stand up to tests of fairness and comprehensiveness.
Example: RSM McGladrey, a large accounting firm headquartered in Minnesota, requires all employees to justify their flexible schedules in writing. They submit a short proposal to show how the flexibility helps clients and co-workers (in addition to themselves) and describe how it should be evaluated.
2. Make workers manage their own schedules. Ultimately, a flex arrangement is only worth keeping if it benefits your company’s financial, strategic and production goals.
Example: At an Arizona insurance office, employees discuss their compressed workweek schedules and plan how the assigned workload will get done. Everyone—not just managers—knows all co-workers’ schedules and duties. Bottom line: Making employees more accountable for results has increased productivity and cut.
3. Require cross-training before you approve flex schedules. Training workers in multiple jobs ensures that backup employees are always available to fill in.
Example: PrintingforLess.com, a commercial printer, runs customer service employees through a grueling 16-week training program so they can perform an array of sales, customer service and production tasks. Then, employees work in three-person teams—with trained “designated hitters” as added backup—to schedule their own workweeks.
4. Set a trial period. If you’re not sure a flex arrangement will work, set a three- or six-month trial period, after which adjustments can be made. Explain up front that you’ll cancel the arrangement if results don’t pan out.