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December 16, 2015

Adding Flexibility to Your Workplace Doesn’t Have to Hurt

Years ago, after returning from maternity leave, a coworker and I asked for a job share arrangement. Since the son I gave birth to is now 18 years old, some things have changed a bit, and some other things, not so much. Back in 1997, we wrote a major proposal that needed approval from the executive leadership team, because we were essentially a test case for this type of “new age” flexible work arrangement. We dared to ask and subsequently got it approved, largely due to the buy-in of our leadership. In proposing this arrangement, we thought that we had a chance for approval, because our company was an advertising and marketing communications company which already had a creative and collaborative culture. Our boss, the HR Director, was supportive and progressive, believing that these types of policies could work for all parties, and she knew our work and trusted us. Most importantly, her boss, the CFO, trusted her managers to make sound decisions for their teams and she signed off on it. Strong leadership is critical to change!

The arrangement consisted of me working the first half of the week and my job share partner working the rest of the week. For the most part, it was a great collaboration. Throughout the week, we would talk to each other, leave copious notes on resumes, in notepads and leave details too long to write on a… (don’t laugh)… dictaphone. Another side benefit was that my colleague gravitated to certain tasks that I ran from, like research, and I loved cold calling people, which she disliked doing. This worked great for us, and I believe our employer truly got two for the price of one. Chalk up a win for us and a win for the company.

Wins for the company with a job share:

    1. Retaining two valued employees, already trained on the job
    2. Two employees with complimentary strengths doing one job
    3. More than 40 hours of work for one FTE, paid hourly but without exceeding the 40 agreed upon
    4. No healthcare benefit costs
    5. A back-up person, if one was out sick or on vacation
    6. Great company PR
    7. Employee engagement

Yes, the wins for the employee with a flexible arrangement are obvious, but often it is even more beneficial for the employer. As recruiters, our flexible arrangement spoke volumes to potential recruits about the type of company that they were considering joining. Our company was viewed as progressive, and that increased overall employee engagement, which wasn’t even a concept back then. Everyone felt great that their company was so cutting edge.

If your company is having trouble attracting new talent or keeping your best people, consider adding some flexible work options. The cost of turnover with recruiting, training, and lost productivity is estimated at anywhere from 6-9 months salary on average. In today’s competitive environment, flexibility often trumps a lucrative compensation package. At Purple Ink, we work virtually and love it!

How can you introduce flexible scheduling alternatives that don’t hurt?

Try one of these flexible scheduling options:

  1. Decide on flexible hours, but mandate all hands on deck during key hours. Maybe it’s critical for all departments to be in the office from 10am-3pm, but some employees arrive early and others stay late.
  2. Staff the department with an early team and a late team, depending on what works for the office and the employees.
  3. Offer a compressed workweek, anywhere from half days on Friday during the summer to one day a week off all year long.
  4. Offer a part-time option to employees who may desire fewer hours.

So far, it’s pretty painless and you are virtually there. In fact, consider a virtual office. Offering a work from home option, even as little as one day a week, can drive engagement and job satisfaction up. If these options don’t seem feasible, start small with tweaking the dress code. It’s amazing what business casual dress or a “jeans on Friday” policy can do to lift morale and give employees a feeling of flexibility.

Are you still skeptical because you’re worried about the impacts on customers, team building, collaboration and how to manage it?

  1. The customers and real needs of the business have to be priority one. Establish the real NEEDS of the business and customers.
  2. TRUST your employees and develop a comprehensive evaluation program. You don’t need to see people doing work for them to be working.
  3. What flexible options are feasible and with which positions?
  4. What accommodations or tools can be provided to make this work? Maybe a laptop or a headset? Do they have a home office?
  5. Communicate expectations with the employees about time in the office and out of the office.
  6. Set up regular meetings, both conference calls and in person. These will facilitate communication, brainstorming, and camaraderie within the team.
  7. Get and give feedback on the benefits and drawbacks after 30, 60 or 90 days. Continue to evaluate the effectiveness in performance appraisals.

Communication and trust are essential to the ultimate success of these programs. If you are doing employee engagement surveys or providing opportunities for ongoing feedback, you may already see a desire for more flexibility. If you don’t, are you asking the right questions?

Remember, it’s almost 2016 and we have email, video conferencing, texting, shared documents and laptops. This is doable and can be profitable.

Think about ways that your company can bend the rules, stretch the boundaries, and flex your staffing model to pull in a more productive and engaged workforce.

Peggy Hogan
Peggy Hogan
Peggy is an HR Consultant at Purple Ink. With a special interest in talent acquisition and retention, Peggy enjoys connecting the right person to the right place. She is motivated to help create positive workspaces by offering creative solutions to problems in the workplace, resulting in reduced turnover, higher employee engagement and increased productivity.

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