You want to give your employees freedom, but you may not know exactly what that should look like. Learn what workplace flexibility could mean and how to find out what your workforce wants.
After a year of our collective remote work experiment, we know that flexibility is key to the future workplace. Even before the pandemic, most workers called flexibility a necessity, and the desire for that control over one’s own work life will only continue to grow.
But it’s also apparent that the word “flexible” is perhaps too broad to guide leaders in developing policies. Does it mean a flexible location? Flexible hours? An ethos of flexibility? What does your workforce really want? It’s important to answer this question before making changes to your organization’s work practices.
Consider these tips to determine what flexibility means to your workforce so you can make sure that policy changes are relevant. But first, take a step back and look at what workplace flexibility could mean.
What Flexibility Means in 2021
The past year has shown that there are a number of ways to offer flexibility, including:
Flextime. In many cases, remote workers have been able to set their hours outside of the traditional 9-to-5 timeslot. You could offer the same level of control as you get employees back to a shared workspace, or even allow compressed work schedules, which let employees complete the usual 40 hours in fewer than five workdays.
Location. Professionals enjoyed the ability to work outside of the office during the pandemic. When you return to the office, you can still offer this kind of freedom by creating a hybrid work environment where employees have control over how many days a week they show up in person.
Reduced schedule. Programs such as job sharing and phased retirement give employees a chance to step back from full-time employment while still working at your organization.
PTO. Some organizations have begun offering a generous—or even unlimited—amount of paid time off, giving employees the freedom to take the time they need to be productive.
Find Out What Flexibility Means to Your Staff
Before making changes, you need to know what’s most important to your employees. Consider these three steps.
1. Gather information. Start by conducting a survey to get a sense for what your staff wants out of a flexible workplace. Ask specifically about the above workplace policies, what they’ve liked or haven’t liked about remote work, and how their productivity has been affected since having the freedom that remote work provides.
You can continue the conversation by setting up company town hall meetings, focus groups, or one-on-one discussions to dig deeper into what your staff wants.
2. Consider industry trends. On top of employee preferences, there might be certain flexible work policies that are more relevant to your organization than others. For example, if onsite work is required, you can’t offer remote work but could still opt for flextime.
You can also ask other organizations if they’ve taken steps to make work more flexible for their employees and consider how those policies would apply to your own workforce. This could be especially helpful if survey results show that employees are split down the middle on certain flexible policies.
3. Shadow employees and reassess. Once you implement your own brand of workplace flexibility, see how your workforce responds. How has productivity been affected? What is the feeling around the office? Have you noticed any roadblocks that you didn’t consider during your knowledge-gathering stage?
This is the second article in our three-part series about the flexible workplace. Read the first installment, an article about flexible management, here. And be sure to check out part 3, on flextime.