How to Create Flexibility in the Workplace

4 questions business owners and managers should consider to build a more flexible environment.

The pandemic has permanently transformed flexibility into a powerful perk that companies are still using to recruit and retain top talent. The lack of flexibility is often a reason employees leave a job. For job seekers, flexibility is increasingly becoming an expected benefit, along with paid time off and health coverage.

Flexible working arrangements not only help with hiring and retention, but can also increase employee engagement, job satisfaction and even productivity. To start incorporating more workplace flexibility at your company, consider these four questions.

1. Is your workplace truly flexible?

While flexibility is usually thought of as remote or hybrid work, true flexibility goes beyond work-from-anywhere policies and can be implemented across any industry or job type. Even managers and CEOs with workers who must be on-site can build flexibility into their company by giving employees greater latitude to get the job done. This can mean eliminating traditional restrictions on where, when, or how work is completed. Flexible workplaces also tend to demonstrate a willingness to adapt to change, experiment with new formats for work, and try to accommodate employees’ personal styles and needs.

2. Where can work be done?

Company owners can start thinking about flexibility by asking, where can the work be done and by whom? For law firms, marketing agencies, real estate companies and other businesses in administrative services, work-from-anywhere policies can be more straightforward to create. Simple technology upgrades, a set of hybrid-work best practices and an eye on culture building has allowed many companies to continue pandemic era work-from-anywhere policies.

However, for many workers in Hawaii, working from home is not possible, particularly for construction, tourism, food and beverage, retail or other customer-service shift positions. For these types of roles and industries, managers can still consider the “where” for certain tasks, such as training and development. For example, can you allow employees to clock in at home to study a manual or partake in safety training instead of coming in to do it pre-shift? Is there a satellite office or branch that employees have the option to work out of on certain days?

If you are limited in implementing flexibility in the “where” at your company, consider the next question, of when can the work be done?

3. When can work be done?

For companies that can’t offer flexibility around where work is done, the question of “when can the work be done?” might be the key to enabling more flexibility in the workplace. Businesses may have set operating hours, but flexibility for employees can come in the form of scheduling. 

Self-scheduling can allow employees to choose their own schedules if they meet minimum hours or established coverage requirements. Employers can also implement technology to make it easy for employees to trade shifts with each other to accommodate personal or family needs.

Some companies show flexibility and keep a healthy pipeline of talent by implementing sabbatical policies for people who wish to take time off to care for family or travel, but also want to eventually return to work.

Compressed work weeks are another way that companies are experimenting with shift scheduling. A popular fast-food franchise on the mainland overhauled weekly schedules to allow frontline employees to work three-day blocks of 13- to 14- hour shifts. This change resulted in 100% retention at the management level and a flood of new applicants.

4. How can work be done?

Flexibility can also mean allowing employees to choose how they work. Instead of solely focusing on hours worked, managers can create a culture of flexibility by rewarding employees who improve efficiency or reach goals. Giving people the freedom to get work done in their own way can lead to more innovation and increased productivity.

For example, an owner of a retail store could give employees the option of dedicating part of their shift to improving online channels or coming up with creative ideas to reach an established goal. If employees reach the goal, the manager could reward employees who participate with paid time off or other incentives. In the long term, a culture of thinking outside of the box to reach goals or improve efficiencies can lead to better outcomes for employees and companies.

Becoming an employer of choice

Becoming an employer of choice starts with asking employees what kind of flexibility they are interested in and taking the time to think about implementation. Once implemented, take the time to gather employee feedback and tweak or expand policies if necessary. Companies that embrace flexibility will likely be better positioned to succeed in the rapidly changing business landscape, increase productivity, and win the war for talent.

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