Although flexible scheduling sounds great in theory, in practice it can sound like this: Managers regretfully say, "I'd like to help, but ..." Employees complain, "You promised I wouldn't have to come in?" Co-workers bitterly remark, "How come we're stuck here while they get to work at home?"
To inspire more positive comments, try these tips:
Discuss scheduling options with your people. Make it clear that you'll give each request equal attention, and just as clear that requests will be granted according to their business feasibility rather than personal need. Be sure to include options initiated by, such as rotating shifts and extended hours. By asking your people for ideas about how to implement such changes, you'll greatly increase the level of willing participation.
Help employees make a strong case for their requests. Say, "I'd like to help — and here's what I'll need in order to consider your request. First, tell me what your proposed schedule will do to our workload and responsibilities, and how we can handle those changes. Then, tell me the benefit to the organization." Give workers some guidance on developing solid answers.
Don't leave "what-ifs" to chance. Get together with employees to think through what will happen if a client needs the employee in an emergency, or if the boss calls a meeting for a time when the employee is away, or if a coworker needs information from an absent employee's desk or computer. Your team is sure to have its own unique problems.
Write all agreements down. That's how to avoid hearing "But you promised!" Write down the specific dates and hours you've agreed on for a flexible schedule, as well as details about any equipment being loaned to the employee. Note, in writing, that all new flexible options start out as pilot programs, subject to review, refinement, and possible cancellation.
Say "no" when you must. If a request doesn't provide sufficient benefit to the organization, or if it's too hard to implement, say "no." The employee may not be happy, but if you follow this policy consistently with every employee, you'll greatly reduce the number of employees who question your fairness.