When many business people and HR pros think of offering employees flexibility in balancing work and life issues, they think in terms of providing scheduling options. But in small businesses, that’s often a deal breaker—small shops can’t easily accommodate irregular hours, job sharing and other flex schedule strategies.
But if you think of flexibility as a broad strategy for business success—involving all kinds of alternatives that help employees bring their best to work—you might realize your organization can’t afford not to be flexible.
Here are five tips for incorporating flexibility into your operations:
1. Embrace the flexibility inherent in a small business. Large employers might offer more whiz-bang benefits such as child care, but managers in small shops are more likely to know each employee’s work/life needs and make informal arrangements with each individual. Give those arrangements a name—“flexibility”—and remind employees that, in your own way, you’re keeping pace with large organizations.
2. Ask employees what kind of flexibility they want. You might be surprised to learn that employees don’t want to work less; they just want to work differently. A 2007 Work+Life Fit Reality Check Survey reveals that just 5% of respondents would reduce their schedule by more than 10 hours a week. The rest simply wanted to work at home for a day or more a week or tweak their start and end times.
3. Factor in all possible cost savings. Offering telework options can yield real savings on rent. If you don’t need all employees to be in one place at the same time every day, consider allowing them to stagger days at home. You could reduce your need for office space.
4. Task employees with making it work. If employees want flexibility badly enough, they will come up with ways to make it work—both for themselves and the organization. Delegate the job of proving the value of flexibility to the employees who take advantage of it.
5. Write formal policies. Flexibility in a small firm usually begins with a bold employee who asks for it. As the practice grows, write some policies to formalize and even place limits on its use.
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