Flexing in the Workplace

Flexing, not your muscles, but the ability to offer flexibility in the workplace has transformed from a nice perk some organizations or managers offered, to an expectation that most people aren’t willing to “flex” on.  While this might seem like a simple concept, consider how “flexibility” may mean something different to everyone.  We are sitting in a time where workplaces are being asked to be flexible in order to accommodate every individual’s needs and desires.  Business owners are wondering how in the world they are going to continue to operate if they accommodate one. more. thing.  Ironically, there are employees who are wondering the same thing about their workplace.  They don’t know how they are going to accommodate one more thing their employer is asking of them.  Is it possible to reconcile the needs of a business with the ever-growing desires of the current day employee?  

Why Flexibility?

Is it me or are people becoming less flexible with their demands for flexibility?

Do you remember when being flexible in the workplace meant that you could work an extra hour if you came in an hour late because you had to go to the dentist?  As the world is morphing and transforming, we find that we are at a point in time where flexibility is the want of the day.  Understanding how flexibility plays into each workplace will require all businesses to venture into unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory.  Working and managing in different types of environments will require individuals and businesses alike to become more flexible. 

Five versions of flexibility that your business should revisit on a regular basis to move towards a more flexible work environment:

Location:  hybrid, remote, on-site are all becoming standard terminology in job descriptions, essentially describing where the work is to be done.  Many are working hard at trying to be flexible in that regard.  If you haven’t considered if remote or hybrid can work for some or all of your business, you may want to put this on your list to contemplate if it could work in your business.

Hours:  8:00 – 5:00.  The time factor of work.  Are you still abiding by the 8-5 mantra, without any really good reason?  There are certainly businesses that have to keep a fixed start and stop time, but so many have the option to alter them. Hours can be a game changer for some people who have obligations like daycare pick up, pets, a school drop off, a newborn at home, caring for a sick family member, or a hobby.   We often overlook the people who may not have the same familial obligations and simply have hobbies and outside interests other than work.  Hours are an area of flexibility that can really change the dynamics of morale.  Some people get their best work done at 10 p.m. at night – why not let them do it then if the result is equal to or better than what you would expect. 

Seasonal:  Some people love the concept of summer hours, and that might mean something different for each person.  Leaving “early” on a Friday or having a day off every other week.  If your business has a busy time and a less busy time, create a plan to take advantage of each of those business needs that can also satisfy something within a person’s personal life.  For example, if it’s retail and you know December is the busiest month and the business can’t afford to provide time off or it’s spring in an accountant’s world, excess hours may be unavoidable.  So figure out how to take advantage of the less than peak times so that people have a little bit more breathing room when the needs of the business are less. 

Dress codes:  So many dress codes in employee handbooks are out-of-date to begin with, and now the post-pandemic world has set a whole different set of standards of what acceptable dress is.  If the business really has a legitimate reason of requiring a polyester suit, tie, and jacket…certainly keep it.  If personal preference is the cause of very strict dress codes, perhaps it’s time to shake things up. 

Benefits:  Different benefits are important at different phases of one’s life.  Selling a new college graduate on your dependent care program and even health care when they get to stay on their parent’s plan until age 26 may not get it done for you.  Being flexible in your communications of the benefits you offer so that they are attractive to the candidates you are trying to hire is imperative. 

If you are nervous about change because you think your business might suffer if you deviate from what you’ve always done, I understand.  Change is hard.  Don’t be afraid to try some different things out.  You might be pleasantly surprised at the result and wished you would have done something sooner.  You can alter the guidelines and still have appropriate measurements for success. 

The desire for flexibility is here to stay.  Those who figure out what flexibility is desired within their organization and find solutions of flexibility that will appeal to their workforce will continue to stay ahead of the game.

Written by: Chris Ament, HR Director Consultant, ConnectedHR

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