As our culture evolves, so does the workforce landscape. Businesses today cannot just offer healthcare benefits and a competitive salary to potential workers. Many of them are also looking for incentives to stay engaged and motivated, including one of the biggest perks—flexible work arrangements.
There are two main hurdles that business owners have to conquer to be able to offer flexible work arrangements. The first is that they have invested a lot of time and money into office space, and they feel like it is a waste if they don’t have employees physically in the space. The second common hurdle is the worry about productivity when they can’t see their workers actually doing the work. How can they possibly know that the staff is working if no one is there?
There is a change in mindset necessary for many business owners to embrace flexibility. The old school way of measuring work ethic is how long your workers are in the office. If they’re at their desks when you get there and at their desks when you leave, they must be hard workers, right? Today’s mindset is more about whether the work gets done. Productivity will be the key factor in whether an employee is worth their salary. Instead of asking “What time did you get here today?”, you’ll be asking “What did you accomplish today?”
The truth is that flexible work arrangements don’t work for every business. If your business requires workers to be client-facing, use manufacturing materials, or work with trade secrets, it might not be the best option. But, businesses that can take advantage of flexible work arrangements often find that their employees have greater job satisfaction and higher productivity rates.
One way to offer flexible work arrangements is to offer flexible locations. Telecommuting and remote working allow your workers to get things done, just not necessarily inside the office. Telecommuting is an arrangement where your employee works in the office at times and other times from a location of their choosing. Also called “work from home days,” the employee would choose which days to work outside of the office. You could also limit these days to certain days of the week.
For example, your office might have work from home days as an option on Fridays. Or you might offer to allow workers to telecommute during nasty weather or on days when there’s a lot of street traffic in your area.
Alternatively, remote working is an arrangement where the employee works outside of the office all of the time. Instead of coming into the office for most of the week or on a set schedule, the employee will work entirely offsite. There may be some times when you require them to be in the office for training, meetings, or other special events. However, those are the exceptions, not the rule.
The main difference between these options is that telecommuters do the bulk of their work in the office with some days that they work offsite while remote workers always work offsite. Therefore, telecommuters must live locally while remote workers can live anywhere. The benefit to the business for either of these arrangements is that you can bring in the best talent available in the industry rather than the best talent available to work in a specific location.
Many employers find that they move to flexible locations to accommodate the changing lifestyles of their current employees. If a worker has health issues or family changes that require more flexibility on where they work, offering a telecommuting schedule can often keep them on the team. Or what if you really want to hire someone who would be a perfect fit for the team, but they live 2,000 miles away? A remote position might be the compromise that makes the situation work for both of you.
Offering flexible work schedules is another way to handle these arrangements. Instead of having every employee work the same Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 schedule, consider letting them choose one that works for them. As the employer, you can set the parameters for the schedules.
For instance, you might want them to be within a 12-hour period. So, everyone will work eight hours between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the evening, but those hours would be up to them. Alternately, you might ask that everyone work 40 hours a week, but they can break it up into 10 hours a day for four days a week. These flexible arrangements work well for businesses that have a set amount of work to be done per day or per week but have some flexibility on deadlines during that time.
In terms of management, you’ll need to ensure that there is the right amount of coverage. Everyone can’t work from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. if you need coverage until 6 p.m. Depending on your management style, you may also want to set schedules on a semi-permanent basis. While your workers may choose their hours, you would require them to stick to that schedule with changes made at the three- or six-month markers. This way, you’re not wondering when someone might show up to work.
Job sharing is a flexible work arrangement in which two separate employees share a full-time job. This works for situations where the employer needs full-time work but can’t find the staff with availability to do that. Instead, you hire two part-time workers to share work responsibilities. This is especially common in industries where you’re drawing job applicants from a pool of students, working mothers, or seniors.
The benefits of this arrangement includes the fact that part-time workers often don’t get the same employment benefits as full-time ones. That can save on overhead. In businesses where burnout is common, two part-time workers often last longer than one full-time one.
However, managing two employees can be more work than managing one. Also, if they are job sharing, it’s likely they won’t be working at the same time. This means that you’ll be responsible for coordinating efforts between the two and making sure you’re all on the same page.
Each of these flexible work arrangements have their own set of pros and cons. Evaluate each one against the needs of your business to determine if flexible work opportunities could be a positive change in your business.