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How to Manage Flexible Work Arrangements

Fifteen months after the world’s population was confined to their homes, companies—both large and small—face new challenges around getting employees to return to worksites post-pandemic. However, with many employees working remotely since March 2020, attitudes towards and expectations of where, when, and how to work have changed drastically.

According to a recent survey by Mercer, 83.36 percent of organizations surveyed are considering flexible work at a greater scale than before the pandemic. Furthermore, approximately 73 percent of those companies stated that their plan to achieve flexibility is through a hybrid work environment. And with just over 68 percent of companies either creating or revising flexible work policies, it looks like we’ve rounded the corner on where, when, and how we work.

However, as organizations start going back to the office, some are dictating who returns, when they return, and what their schedule will be.  While other companies are letting employees choose their own adventures. All of which can be difficult to manage.

With flexible work arrangements becoming the norm, organizations of all sizes must “stop duplicating office-centric practices and shift to a human-centric model” to be successful in this new normal.

Here are some tips for managing your organization’s flexible work arrangements.

1.    Encourage and Support Flexibility at the Individual and Team Levels

When creating flexible work policies, trust both individual employees and teams with the creativity and autonomy to select their own schedules. Flexibility is not something that can be—or should be—micromanaged. It differs across companies, jobs, and workers.

For example, a flexible work schedule may mean one thing to a working parent employee and another to a Gen Z employee. Alternatively, for teams, let both team leaders and the members themselves collectively choose what works best for them. A team, for instance, might decide only to have meetings on Monday and Wednesday mornings. Or they may choose to work through lunch, allowing them to leave an hour earlier.

Allowing both individual employees and teams to build flexibility into their workdays builds trust while encourages creativity. However, defining flexibility is not a one-and-done practice. It would be best if you encouraged workers and teams to frequently revisit their flexible work arrangements, looking for places to tweak or change.

2.    Train Leaders and Managers on Flexible Work Arrangements

While supporting and encouraging flexibility at the individual and team level is crucial to getting your new work schedules off on the right foot, don’t forget to train your leaders and managers on flexible work arrangements.

For many leaders, managing flexible workers is a new skill. As such, organizations need to support leaders and managers with clear, objective expectations and goals associated with flexible work, expectations, and outcomes. According to Forbes, flexible work schedules “flourish when there is consistency in application and clear expectations are met.”

Additionally, empathy will be critical to leading these new flexible workforces. Recent Gartner research indicates that 89 percent of HR leaders must “lead with empathy in the hybrid environment.” However, companies aren’t investing in empathy-based leadership training, creating a skills shortage. To overcome this deficit, organizations must train managers to focus on performance outcomes, not inputs, while increasing soft skills training in empathy, listening, and collaboration.

3.    Model Flexibility from the Top Down

As with most corporate initiatives, buy-in to flexible work arrangements from top leaders is critical to your organization’s success. Be sure to communicate expectations around what success looks like in this new work model. Define and communicate key performance metrics around productivity and review them regularly.

Also, model how flexibility looks at the most senior levels of the company. Consistently demonstrate to employees “how to successfully integrate performance with a flexible lifestyle.” However, be sure that senior leadership holds itself accountable for demonstrating both flexibility and successful outputs. Don’t create an environment of do what I say, but not what I do.

With organizations shifting from “managing the employee experience to managing the life experience of their employees,” employers, leaders, and managers have much work ahead of them. However, by implementing the above management tips for flexible work arrangements, companies can build a foundation of success. 

As you shift to a more flexible work environment, you’ll likely be hiring employees to fill these positions in a remote or hybrid work environment. Learn about how to choose the right hiring platform for your organization, so you find the right fit for your open role.