If the number of articles published on Forbes.com alone is any indication, workplace flexibility is a hot topic for today’s employers. Researchers and pundits alike hail the benefits of flexible work arrangements, which include employee happiness, productivity, and engagement.
In certain circumstances, such as where an employee faces health issues or family responsibilities, flexible work hours can make the difference between retaining and losing a key part of your team. And in Vancouver, where real estate prices are driving many to the suburbs, job flexibility may serve to entice quality job candidates who may balk at the prospect of an excessive commute.
All these upsides suggest that flexible work isn’t just good for employees, it’s good for employers. So, are there any downsides to offering employees options when it comes to when and where they work?
While workplace flexibility is one way for employers to foster sustainable employment, it can also present some challenges for your business. Common concerns include how to deal with confidential information; IT risks (e.g. computer viruses); productivity; and company culture.
The good news is, if you follow our “4 C’s”, your chances of creating a flexible workplace that works – for everyone – are greatly increased:
When developing a workplace flexibility policy, seek your employees’ input. This not only engenders employee engagement, it ensures that your solution fits the need.
Whatever policy you ultimately settle on, make sure you put it in writing. Let your employees know exactly what’s possible, whether it’s a certain number of flex days a year, working remotely (and if so, how often), or keeping hours outside the traditional 9 to 5.
If your employees will be taking sensitive documents or other materials out of the office, you should also be explicit about your expectations for keeping these secure – the other alternative, of course, is to restrict your workers from removing certain information from your premises altogether.
Similarly, make sure you adopt clear IT and other systems to reduce the risks to your electronic data.
Keep your workplace flexibility policy and practices consistent across the organization. To do otherwise sends the message that some employees are valued more than others, which could very well undercut the positive effects of offering flexible arrangements to part of your workforce.
In our view, the greatest challenge that comes with flexible work arrangements is how to maintain workplace culture and camaraderie. While it’s not necessary (or advisable) to follow the lead of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and impose a complete ban on working remotely, employers do need to consider how to create connection among team members who may be physically
This is where it can help to lean on technology to bring your staff together. Telecommuting, Google hangouts, Skype, weekly teleconference meetings – there are innumerable ways to keep a disparate team together. It may take some imagination and effort, but when you’ve got the right people working for you, it’s worth it.