If there is one benefit more important to employees than salary, it’s flexibility. When people are considering working for an organization, they usually want to know how much flexibility the position or role will allow for them to accomplish things outside of work. I recently had a colleague of mine who was offered a position with an organization that she had been pursuing employment with for about two years. Upon speaking with her about it, she admitted that one of her main concerns was whether she was still going to be able to have the same flexibility as she did with her current position. She mentioned how she was able to go to the gym for an hour during lunch; she was capable of running important errands during the day like going to doctors’ appointments when needed and dropping her kids off at school and daycare. As we talked more about her new position with this organization, I could tell her anxiety was heightened around this flexibility issue. Being the friend that I am, I encouraged her to contact the hiring manager and see what options were available with the position before she fully committed to the job.
This got me thinking about what flexibility strategies organizations need to consider when recruiting and wanting to retain employees. It’s important to note that not every flexibility strategy works for all organizations. Each organization needs to think about each role and position within the organization and how flexibility helps the employee to optimize their work and get it done to the best of their ability. With the 24/7 global workforce that we live in today, most employees want to know they will have some control over their schedule; they want the assurance that they will be able to take care of personal things if needed. While there are many strategies to flexibility, I will give you what I consider to be the most effective and researched strategies you can implement in your organization for your employees.
Telework/remote work is probably the most common strategy organizations use to allow employee flexibility. This allows employees to decide when and how they get their work done. Even now, organizations have what they call remote teams. These individuals work from home, co-working spaces and coffee shops. With remote work, people can pretty much work from anywhere in the world and decide when to spend time with family and friends; they can even travel and work on vacations (something I would advise an employee against).
Compressed work week is set up so the employee works more hours in a day and compresses the work week down to 3 or 4 days. It’s been standard in the nursing field that a nurse’s schedule is 3 days on for 12 hours followed by 4 days off. I have also seen some companies work extra hours Monday through Thursday with Friday as an off day. It’s just a matter of what works for the organization. For some employees, this works great because they know they will have a day off during the week to get other things done.
Part Time allows the employee to work a limited number of hours or less time per week. This flexibility strategy is starting to be utilized more, especially with the gig economy and contract work. Frequently, part time is used to help new parents who were on maternity and paternity leave become acclimated to working again after the extensive time off and stress of taking care of a newborn baby. We also see part-time flexibility strategy used for retired workers to help ease them into retirement and still allow them to feel like they have a meaningful life and purpose in their work.
Job Sharing is when two part-time positions share the duties of one full-time position. This is a fairly new strategy that is growing in organizations because it allows employees and organizations to split the responsibilities of one job. This is good for someone who wants to learn a particular skill set but not as a full-time person. In addition, it gives both employees a sense of security knowing that work will still get done if one needs to take care of a sick child or wants to go on vacation.
Flextime is a strategy in which the employees determine the time they want to work. The employees may decide they want to come in later in the morning and stay late or come in earlier so they may leave early. This strategy goes against the traditional 9-5 and gives the employee a lot of autonomy in terms of when they work. Ultimately, as long as the employee achieves their allotted 40 hours for the week, it doesn’t matter what time they work.
Although this is not an exhaustive list, these are the most common flexibility strategies an organization can implement now. What’s great about these flexibility strategies is that it is free to implement them, and when such a strategy is put in place, it communicates to employees that you care about their well-being. Once again, each organization must evaluate the needs of their employees and choose which strategy fits best for their bottom line and the organization as a whole.
Michael Dickerson is a work/life expert, Positive Psychology Practitioner, and host of The Spillover Effect Podcast. He utilizes positive psychology science and research to contribute to individuals, teams and organizations factors that can help employees achieve work/life integration. Michael believes is dealing with individuals as a whole person and enhancing the employee experience within organizations.