4 ways to ace the art of formulating flexi-working policies 

employeeUntil a few years ago, an employee’s commitment was measured by the amount of face-time she/he had in the office, also known as the ‘culture of presenteeism.’ Today, a large section of the industry is undergoing transformation on workplace practices, particularly those related to a flexible work routine and related productivity tracking practices. Millennials are rejecting the idea of ‘bleed to succeed’ with three-quarters of them saying they would take a pay cut to work for a company that offers a flexible working model. A Deloitte survey recently found that retention of millennials can be increased by up to five years when work is made location agnostic and more flexible. As flexi working ceases to be a matter of choice for organizations, and becomes a near mandatory offering to attract millennials, here are a few strategies brands can consider while formulating policies around flexible work engagement.  

1. formalize flexi working

In the UK, flexible working has been made a legal right so that workers who have dedicated a minimum of 26 weeks a particular employer, can apply for flexi-time work practices. It includes working from home, part-time working, flextime and job-sharing. Often, employers point out that tracking productivity is an issue with flexible working. The key is to formalize flexi-work and place remote working within an ascribable framework. For instance, the UK based Lloyds Banking Group has deployed a performance management system which tracks data by employee on the number of flexible working requests made each, how many have been accepted, etc. This data provides insights that help talent managers detect and map productivity of flexible workers versus their full-time workmates. 

2. make it app-based 

Often the biggest barrier to implementing flexi-working programs are the managers. Their standard argument is – not all work can be done remotely. Well, advertising agency, MediaCom London, has busted this myth with its staff app called Open Blend. Using this app, employees, along with their managers, agree on a target to achieve their “work/life blend” ranging from physical and mental well-being to family time. They meet their managers every six weeks to asses progress. The key idea of Open Blend is to drive home for both employees and managers, each other’s priorities and minimize presenteeism as a necessarily evil to productivity. 

3. deep-dive into employee work habits

employeesDell Technologies has been an early adopter of the concept of flexi working. One of the prime factors influencing its decision was Dell’s deep dive survey on its employees’ working habit. And the findings can be quite revealing for every people leader. Dell found 60% of its employees worked before or after standard business hours. Approximately two-thirds of its workers globally conducted at least some business from home. An average employee spent at least two hours per week working from public places. The tech major was convinced beyond doubt that a flexi-working model giving employees the freedom to deliver their work from a place and time of their convenience would maximize both productivity and ownership. Once implemented, 86% of its remote work program participants said they were as or even more productive working remotely. 

4. make communication & support a constant

While working remotely or from home mean fewer distractions for employees, organizations should also convey in very clear language that quality deliverables and meeting deadlines remain a non-negotiable part of the deal. Regular virtual team huddles that are mandatory for all including employees working remotely can help keep all the team members on the same page. Many a times, being away from the team may also trigger a sense of isolation. Relevant efforts in building a strong support system can increase social interactions between the remote worker and the team. Setting goals, regular check-ins by managers, and feedback sharing can create a sense of direction for remote workers.

The notion of the traditional workplace construct is breaking, making way for new virtually connected teams that transcend geographies, cultures and time zones. A research by Intel finds that work-life balance is the most important career goal for all three major generations — baby boomers, Generation X and the millennials. This implies being more flexible can lead to reduction of barriers in talent attraction and retention regardless of location. Leadership commitment to flexible engagement models are important. This will motivate and in some cases even push managers to be open in considering and formulating concrete flexible work plans to best suit the interests of the teams, businesses and employees.