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on March 15, 2018 Employee Engagement Future of work Company Culture

How to Offer Flexibility to Employees — Without Being Taken Advantage Of

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So, you’ve read the studies. You’ve heard the complaints.

Your employees want you to offer more flexibility. Now what?

According to Gallup, 51 percent of U.S. employees say they would switch to a job that allows them flextime, and 37 percent would switch to a job that allows them to work off-site at least part of the time.

Millennials are asking for flextime even more than previous generations — and by 2020, nearly half of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials, and by 2025 will skyrocket 75 percent. For many industries and organizations, this is prompting a major culture change.

But, for many well-meaning managers, there is a fear that shows up — If I offer my employees too much flexibility, what if they take advantage of my kindness?

Although that is a normal way to feel, it’s important to keep in mind how trust works. In order to be trusted, you must be willing give trust, too.

Due to this principle, studies have shown remote workers to be more productive and engaged than desk employees. That’s because when you instill trust in your workers that they are capable of doing a good job without hand holding, they are thankful and want to go above and beyond for their organization.

Click here to read: How to Eliminate Micromanaging in the Workplace

The reality is, managers need to realize that flexibility should go both ways. Nowadays, we expect employees to take their laptops home with them, answer emails off hours and work remotely while on vacation.

And if we are asking them to be “flexible” about their personal life, it is only fair to offer flexibility in the workplace, too.

Set clear expectations

The biggest reason why flexibility can go wrong is unspoken expectations. This creates resentment in both employees and managers.

Remember — “flexibility” doesn’t mean you should set flexible expectations with your  employees, they still must be clear and communicated. If you set expectations that are measurable, it will be much harder for employees to take advantage of you.

Also, be clear with your employees about what “flexibility” means to your business. What is the protocol for sick days, remote work days and vacation days? What should a team member do if they have to schedule a dentist appointment? What about last-minute personal days?

If you force your employees to over explain and justify every ask, it might accidentally diminishes the goodwill of your approach. And, being forced to share with your boss every detail of your personal life might counterintuitively feel less flexible for employees.

Remember, if you want your team members to succeed you should be instilling trust in them, not a lack thereof.

Monitor performance, not process

Many managers are afraid that the moment their team members are out of sight, they will slack off. The key to making sure your employees perform their best is to monitor their performance, not their process.

Each individual has a work style that works for them. Some prefer to work in short bursts and sprints, other prefer to marathon it. Some are early birds, while some are night owls. Some like to work in complete silence, while some prefer the buzz of music of people at coffee shops.

(Want to work in a flexible work environment? backstitch is hiring! Click to see available jobs.)

Employees want flexibility because they want to be able to decide for themselves how they’d prefer to work, as they know themselves best. It is best when bosses judge team members on the deliverables they create, rather than “how” they did the work.

When employees feel that their performance is being monitored rather than their process, they are motivated to do their best on their own terms. The independence you give them will lead them to take responsibility for their performance and their own schedule, which will help them, you and the business’s bottom line.

Scheduling regular performance reviews are a great way to spur communication and trust amongst team members. They will also employees on track with their expectations and improving their execution of tasks.

One way to monitor employees with flexible schedules without micromanaging is by using an internal communication tool.

Click here to see how backstitch can help your business.

Meghan LeVota

Content Strategist at backstitch

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