Over the last few years flexible working has been a hot topic in business. Many organizations have adopted new working practices designed to give employees the freedom to work from anywhere and at any time.
Benefits of flexibility
The benefits of such flexibility mean employees can integrate their home and work lives giving them the freedom to do such things as collect their children from school or attend a medical appointment during traditional working hours. The flexible hours means they then have the freedom to complete their work early in the morning before their appointments, or finish work from home in the evening.
The organization benefits from more focused employees who feel their needs are being met resulting in a happier and more engaged workforce and higher productivity.
Too much flexibility
However, recent research reported in the Guardian.com suggests that some flexible working practices may not be appropriately designed and could be contributing to increased stress levels in employees.
Make flexibility work for you
Creating structure around flexibility can help employees to be more productive and reduce stress levels. Here are some tips to help you to create flexible working practices with employee health and wellbeing, and organizational productivity in mind.
Everyone is different
Not everyone wants or needs flexibility in their job. Some people like to work within their 9-5 hours and at their desk space. Respect individual needs to get the most from your teams.
Use clear guidelines and objectives
Assign tasks with defined goals and deadlines but encourage employees to set their working hours.
For example, suggest employees only work between the hours of 7am-8pm, so they know they have time to relax and switch off from work outside of their designated times. If people know what goals and deadlines they need to achieve, when or where they complete these objectives is immaterial.
However, as a manager, it’s important to check in with employees to understand how their schedule is working for them. It’s important for people to feel challenged but not stressed but they should not feel underworked either. Work with employees to find the right schedule for their needs.
Discourage phone and email checking out of defined hours and, if your team members send emails outside of these times, aim not to reply until the working day starts again to embed new behaviors.
Flexibility doesn’t have to involve out of hours or out of the office working; it can mean working in different areas of the workplace. Some employees may need quiet time to concentrate on a piece of work where they wish not to be interrupted. Alternatively, they might need time to work as part of a team requiring a more social space. Providing different spaces for people to work helps to facilitate their work rather than disrupt it.
Use recognition to connect remote employees
With the number of virtual workers on the rise, it’s essential that companies find new ways to keep their remote employees emotionally connected. Reward and recognition programs present a unique opportunity to connect workforces and overcome some of the obstacles that could arise within a flexible working environment, such as feelings of isolation. Rather, companies can leverage rewards and recognition to celebrate a virtual worker’s desire for autonomy, share their achievements and to create a successful “borderless” workplace.
People are like finely tuned instruments that need consideration when it comes to setting up practices. Just because something works in one organization and for one set of employees does not mean it will work elsewhere. Take time to consider what will work for your employees to reap the rewards of flexibility in your organization.